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Geologic Atlas Users Guide:

Using Geologic Maps and Databases for


Resource Management and Planning
Minnesota Geological Survey
Open-File Report OFR-12-1

2012

G E O L

V E Y

NESO
T

IN

1872

I C A L S

Table of Contents

Cover Page .................................................................................................................................................... i


Part 1: Purpose , History, and Ground Water Basics.......................................................................... 1
Introduction ................................................................................................................................................ 1
History ........................................................................................................................................................2
Organization and Formats..........................................................................................................................2
Minnesota Geology and Water Basics ........................................................................................................3
The Hydrologic Cycle in Minnesota ..........................................................................................................3
The Distribution of Precipitation and Recharge in Minnesota .................................................................4
The Distribution of Water in Minnesotas Geologic Framework .............................................................5
The Time Factor .........................................................................................................................................6
Managing Water Quality and Quantity Goals ............................................................................................7
Water Budgets .............................................................................................................................................7
The Impacts of Pumping ...........................................................................................................................8
How Much Is Too Much? ...........................................................................................................................8
Managing Water Quality.............................................................................................................................9
Keeping Track- How Are We Doing? .........................................................................................................9
Modeling- Predicting Outcomes ................................................................................................................9
Guidance and Best Practices for Water Management: ............................................................................. 10

Part 2: the Elements of a Geologic Atlas - how they are made, and
how they can be used ................................................................................................................................ 10
Databases .................................................................................................................................................. 10
County Well Index (CWI) ......................................................................................................................... 11
Quaternary Data Index (QDI) ................................................................................................................. 12
Geophysical Data ..................................................................................................................................... 12
Surcial Geologic Maps ............................................................................................................................ 14
Quaternary Stratigraphy, and Sand Distribution Models......................................................................... 16
Sand Distribution Models ......................................................................................................................... 17
Bedrock Topography and Depth to Bedrock Maps ................................................................................. 18
Bedrock Geology Maps ............................................................................................................................ 19
Geologic Atlas Uses .................................................................................................................................. 21

Summary ...................................................................................................................................................... 22

Geologic Atlas Users Guide:


Using Geologic Maps and Databases for
Resource Management and Planning
Dale Setterholm
Minnesota Geological Survey
Version 1.0
2012
Part 1: Purpose , History, and
Ground Water Basics
Introduction
If you think of earth as our home, we spend almost all of
our time on the main oor, and very little in the basement.
We travel the land surface, interact with its features, and learn
about it through our senses of sight, sound, and touch.
However, some of the things we depend on the most come
from beneath the land surface. We need energy, building
materials, shelter, waste disposal, and most importantly, water.
Many of us have had little opportunity or need to learn
about those aspects of the earth. As our population grows
and our material requirements increase human impact on
energy and water resources also increases, and we need to
understand the workings of our home more fully for it to
provide what we need now and into the future.
We wouldnt try to manage our road network without maps
to record where the roads are, what their characteristics are
(number of lanes, pavement type, speed limits, etc.), and how
they connect to each other. Similarly, to manage resources
such as our water supply we need maps that indicate where
water is stored (aquifers), and how those aquifers are
connected to the land surface, to surface waters, to wells, and
to each other.
A geologic atlas is intended to describe the geologic
framework of our home and how the subsurface
environment provides the resources we need. It describes the
materials and features that begin just beneath the soil and it
continues down to the bedrock surface and beyond.
The atlases provide information useful for resource
management and land use planning. Sometimes they
utilize terminology and concepts familiar to geologists and
hydrologists that may be challenging to non-specialists. This

guide is intended to overcome that gap and explain how an


atlas is created, and more importantly how it can be used to
support decisions that affect these essential resources.
Each atlas typically requires more than 7,000 personhours of work. Some of that work is in the eld: drilling test
borings, examining, sampling, and describing outcrops where
the rock or sediment beneath the soil becomes visible at the
lands surface, and conducting seismic tests to measure the
depth to bedrock, [sending tiny shock waves into the earth
and measuring how long it takes them to rebound]. One of
the most important parts of the eld work, and a part often
performed by county staff as a contribution to the overall
effort, is establishing the exact location and land surface
elevation of hundreds of wells. Much of the work that goes
into preparing the atlases follows after: interpreting the eld
measurements, recognizing and formally naming geologic
units described in well records, and making maps.
The result is a detailed account, mostly in the form of maps,
of the distribution and properties of the rock and sediment
that lie below the land surface. These materials, and their
ability to store or transmit water, determine where we can
nd water, and how we can protect and make wise use of that
water. This includes our lakes and rivers as well as ground
water.
The introduction of computer-based methods of
managing information about places, called geographic
information systems, has enhanced the usability of geologic
information by making it relatively easy to create maps
customized for specic uses. Traditional geologic maps
required far more interpretation by the user to be applied to
specic management issues. The atlases are delivered in both
traditional and geographic information system (GIS) formats.
This Users Guide is intended for people that dont
have training in geology or hydrology- most people. Every
Minnesotan uses water, and every Minnesotan has an effect

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


on water, so we all have a role and an interest in how that
resource is distributed, how it is used, and how we affect
its quality and availability. The purpose of the Guide is to
explain in simple terms where our water comes from, how
geology and climate control its distribution, and how we can
manage water to maximize the availability of high quality
water for ourselves and the habitat we live in. The atlases
can provide very practical information such as what aquifers
County Geologic Atlas
Part A Coverage

Kittson

Roseau

provided funding or in-kind service. However, in recent


years the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund,
as managed by the Legislative and Citizens Commission on
Minnesota Resources, has been the most important single
source of funding to the program.
The atlases are generally highly valued by the counties, and
also by consultants, state agencies, federal agencies, educators,
researchers, well contractors, and citizens. The selection of
counties has been inuenced by population (an attempt to
serve as many people as possible), by ground water sensitivity
(providing guidance where resources are most threatened)
and by the interest of local decision-makers (providing
atlases where there is local interest in utilizing them for sound
resource management).

status
complete
not started
revised
revision underway
underway

Lake of the Woods

Most atlas maps are published at 1:100,000 scale [ one


inch on the map = 1.6 miles on the ground]. This is detailed
enough to depict features that signicantly inuence ground
water ow, and yet doesnt require data density that would
be too costly to be practical. The early atlas map plates
were hand drafted, turned into color separate negatives and
offset printed. Recent atlases are still printed (although fewer
copies are made) to serve users who prefer that format,
but all of the information on the plates and much more
is also compiled in digital format, primarily as geographic
information system (GIS) les, that allow users to combine
the information with additional non-geologic data, create
custom maps, and if desired three-dimensional images.

Marshall
Koochiching
Pennington
Beltrami

Red Lake

Cook

Polk

Norman

Lake

St. Louis

Clearwater
Itasca
Mahnomen
Hubbard
Clay

Becker

Wilkin

Otter Tail

Cass

Crow Wing

Wadena

Douglas

Stevens

Pope

Morrison

Traverse
Big Stone

Mille Lacs Kanabec

Benton
Stearns

Sherburne

Swift
Lac Qui Parle Chippewa

Yellow Medicine

Lyon

Isanti

Hennepin
McLeod

Renville

Redwood

Chisago

Anoka

Wright

Kandiyohi Meeker

Scott

Nicollet Le Sueur

Dakota

Rice

Goodhue
Wabasha

Brown
Pipestone Murray

Rock

Nobles

Cottonwood

Jackson

Blue Earth Waseca Steele Dodge


Watonwan

Martin

The rst atlases were created solely at the MGS, but


starting with publication of the Fillmore County Atlas in
1995 atlases have been produced in two parts. The MGS
describes the geologic framework, and the Department
of Natural Resources, Division of Ecological and Water
Resources describes ground water conditions and sensitivity.
The MGS created a Regional Hydrogeologic Assessment
(RHA) of the Anoka Sand Plain area in 1993. Between 1995
and 2008, the MGS and the DNR also produced RHAs of
multi-county areas in western Minnesota. These studies are
not as comprehensive as county atlases, but there is some
commonality in products, and this guide is also pertinent to
those products.

Washington
Ramsey

Carver

Sibley
Lincoln

Carlton

Pine

Todd
Grant

Aitkin

Faribault

Freeborn

Mower

Olmsted

Winona

Fillmore

Houston

Figure 1. Status of County Geologic Atlas Program-09/2012

are available to a homeowner that needs to drill a well. The


atlases also work at larger scales answering questions such
as where is the largest or most productive aquifer in this
county, or conversely, where is the best place in this county
to isolate potential contaminants from our water system?.
The atlases document existing hydrologic conditions, such as
water levels in aquifers, so that we can recognize and respond
to changes in those levels if necessary.

Organization and Formats


All atlases include a series of maps in printed form. Those
maps are supported by associated databases, but it was
not feasible to deliver all the data in the early years of the
program. Modern atlases provide the printed maps, digital
reproductions of the maps in portable document les (pdfs),
and maps with associated data tables in GIS formats that
can be used with free GIS software, or with fully-functioned
commercial GIS software. The digital products are available
from the MGS and DNR web sites, or on a DVD. The
printed materials and DVDs can be purchased at the MGS
Map Sales Ofce, and digital les can be downloaded without

History
The Minnesota Geological Survey (MGS) produced the
Scott County Geologic Atlas in 1982. In the nearly 30 years
since, the MGS has completed atlases for 23 more counties
and projects are under way in 11 more counties (Figure 1).
Funding has always been a limiting factor in accomplishing
this work. The Division of Ecological and Water Resources
at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has provided
funding for many years, and the counties themselves have
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


charge (http://www.mngs.umn.edu/). If the home page has
changed, do a web search for Minnesota Geological Survey to
nd the current link.
The geologic components of an atlas are referred to as Part
A, and the hydrologic components as Part B. This document
focuses mainly on the products of Part A; a companion
document describing Part B products may follow.

Minnesota Geology and Water Basics


This section provides an overview of water distribution,
and the implications for a long term supply of high
quality water. It describes the hydrologic system in general,

Figure 3. Minnesota is a headwaters state. Virtually all of our


water arrives as precipitation that falls on our land and eventually
leaves via rivers.

Minnesota, not into it. Rain and snow falling directly on our
state are our main source of water, and any water that doesnt
go back into the atmosphere via evaporation or transpiration
leaves Minnesota as ground water, or by rivers.
That is good news. It means our water quality is selfdetermined. Unlike the situation in New Orleans or other
downstream localities, our water arrives in relatively good
condition as snow or rain. As it moves through the hydrologic
cycle, its quality is largely determined by land use practices
and other behaviors of Minnesotans. The quality of the
water in our major rivers as they leave our state is affected
by neighboring states that also contribute water to them, and
its composition is also affected by the earth materials that

Figure 2. The hydrologic cycle moves water from the atmosphere


to the land and eventually to the ocean. There are long and short
paths, but the cycle is continuous.

and specically in Minnesota. Some guidelines on water


management techniques follow. This section should be
helpful to anyone interested in understanding water, and
water management, in Minnesota.

The Hydrologic Cycle in Minnesota


Water is a transient resource, always
moving in a cyclic manner, although
often by pathways and at rates
imperceptible to our senses.
The classic illustrations of the
hydrologic cycle are drawn at a
continental scale (Figure 2) and show
water evaporating from the oceans,
raining down on mountains, and working
its way back to the oceans as surface or
ground water.
Minnesota is a headwaters state
(Figure 3). If you view a map of our
state that shows the major rivers, youll
recognize that water mostly ows out of

more rapid infiltration


less runoff

slower infiltration
more runoff or ponding

CLAY-RICH SO
IL

SANDY SOIL

TILL

SAND

SAND

Figure 4. Infiltration as it relates to soil types.


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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


contact it. However, the level of human-caused contaminants
in that river water is a useful indicator of our collective effect
on water.

resource, best managed with an understanding of the path


and rate at which it moves.
Beneath the soil of Minnesota there is a great variety of
geologic materials, some of which can host and transmit
water readily, and some of which impede the ow of water.

As rain arrives in Minnesota it encounters the land surfacea surface with water-bearing characteristics that vary from
place to place and even from season to season.

In some parts of Minnesota ground water can found to


depths of thousands of feet, although usable ground water
is more commonly found within a few hundred feet of the

Some of the rainwater may travel across the land surface


and enter streams or rivers and follow these drainages to our
borders. Evaporation from lakes and rivers will return some
of the water to the atmosphere. Some of the rainwater will
enter the soil and either be utilized by plants (and transpired
to the atmosphere) or continue to move downward and
become ground water. The relative amounts of water that
follow each of these paths are determined by soil type,
vegetation, the presence of frost, slope, and conditions
associated with our development of the landscape such as
impervious surfaces, drain tile, ditching, storm water systems,
and other hydrologic modications.

Normal Annual Precipitation

35
34
33
32
31
30
29
28
27
26
25
24
23
22
21
20
19
18
inches

One of the characteristics of soil that signicantly controls


inltration (Figure 4) is its permeability. Permeability the
characteristic that allows water to soak into it and ow
through it-- is determined by the presence of pore space and
the connectivity of those pores. The pores may be inherent
to the sediment that makes up the soil, such as sand, or
pores may be created by worms or other biologic activity.
Permeable soils more readily admit water into the subsurface.
We have a winter season during which precipitation is
largely frozen and unable to inltrate. Or melt water is
present, but the soil is frozen and resists inltration. In
the growing season the water demands of crops or native
vegetation can intercept a large proportion of available
water and thereby limit deeper inltration. The movement
of available water to subsoil zones is maximized during
those seasons when the soil is not frozen and vegetation is
dormant.

State Climatology Office - DNR Waters


July 2003

Figure 5. Distribution of annual precipitation in Minnesota

lands surface. In some places earth materials, such as granite


or dense clay that cannot host or transmit signicant amounts
of water, extend to the land surface. Virtually no usable
ground water exists beneath these places. A key point to keep
in mind is that, in general, our water resources are usually
separated from activities at the land surface by less than a few
hundred feet of porous material, and often it is much less
than that.

Water that does move below the land surface is called


ground water, and this movement is called recharge.
Driven largely by gravity, recharge is also affected by
pressure gradients that can cause water to move laterally
or even upward in the subsurface environment. Over long
periods ground water moves from higher elevations toward
lower elevations and may discharge back to the land surface
through springs. In Minnesota, ground water discharges into
stream and rivers, which eventually ow toward the oceans.

The Distribution of Precipitation


and Recharge in Minnesota
Precipitation is not evenly distributed across Minnesota
(Figure 5). The southeastern corner of Minnesota receives
twice as much as the northwestern corner of the state.

It is this continuous discharge of ground water that keeps


rivers owing even during long periods without rain and is
why our rivers do not dry up in January. When water is at
the land surface we call it surface water, and when it is in
the ground we call it ground water. However, the hydrologic
cycle shows that it is the same water, moving from the surface
into the ground and then back to the surface. It is a single

The inequity of available potential ground water is


compounded by the factors that inuence inltration rates,
such as soil type, vegetation, season, and slope. Estimated
recharge rates show that the clay-rich soils and geologic
materials of western Minnesota tend to reduce the portion
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


a relatively small amount of clay mixed with sand can impede
water ow by lling the pores or clogging the connections
between pores. Limestone and dolomite are sedimentary
rocks that generally dont have grains surrounded by pore
spaces, but they do commonly have large fractures that can
host and transmit large quantities of water.
Geologic materials formed by igneous or metamorphic
processes, in which the rock is formed by crystallization of
minerals, generally have very little porosity or permeability.
They do not host or transmit water readily.
The geology of Minnesota can be conveniently divided
into bedrock and glacial sediment. Bedrock ranges from
millions to billions of years old and was formed by igneous,
metamorphic, or sedimentary processes. Glacial sediment,
is generally less than two million years old and deposited as
unconsolidated clays, sands and gravels by continental glaciers
and the meltwater that owed from them.
Geologic maps show the distribution of these earth
materials. Simplied maps at statewide scale provide a sense

Figure 6. Distribution of recharge to groundwater across


Minnesota; from USGS Fact Sheet 2007-3002, Jan. 2007

of precipitation that becomes ground water (Figure 6). At


the same time, those factors increase the amount of rain and
snow melt that runs overland to streams.
Ground water in western Minnesota is relatively less
abundant partly because of these phenomena, and also
because of the relative scarcity there of sand and gravel or
bedrock types that are capable of storing water and acting as
aquifers. The amount of precipitation that becomes ground
water in eastern Minnesota is estimated to be as much as six
times higher than in in western Minnesota.

The Distribution of Water in


Minnesotas Geologic Framework
As discussed above, ground water can only exist in the
subsurface where pores provide space for it, and it can only
move where those pores are effectively connected to each
other.

Figure 7. Bedrock units most likely to produce large quantities


of water include the sedimentary rocks of northwestern and
southeastern Minnesota (yellow) and the Biwabik Iron Formation
(red). The sedimentary rocks of Cretaceous age (green) produce
water in some areas, but in many places no suitable aquifer
material is present. The igneous and metamorphic rocks (brown)
typically produce small quantities of water, but only when the well
intersects fractures in the rock.

Those pores are most common in sediment and


sedimentary rocks- materials that accumulate from the
breakdown of older rocks. Sand and sandstone are examples
of earth materials that can have abundant pore space. The
pores exist between the grains of sand. Similar to a container
full of marbles, a body of sand has lots of space between
the grains spaces that water can occupy. In contrast, clay
particles are shaped like plates. When packed, like sheets
of paper stacked on top of each other, those clay particles
have very little space that can be occupied by water. For that
reason, clay-rich sediment cannot host much water, and even

of how ground water is distributed across the state.


In some places the bedrock contains water, in some places
the glacial materials do. And in some places both, or neither,
do. Similar maps can be made at scales useful for planning
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


In south-central Minnesota there are bedrock aquifers, and
abundant glacial sediment, but the glacial sediment is clay-rich
and aquifers are difcult to nd within it.

and management by modifying the geologic maps found in


the County Geologic Atlas Series.
The statewide bedrock map shows that the sedimentary
bedrock units of southeastern Minnesota are an important

In southwestern, far west-central, and northwestern


Minnesota most of the bedrock types are not highly
productive as aquifers and the glacial sediment is very clayrich, especially in the subsurface. It can be difcult to nd
aquifers, and wells often do not produce ample water. Water
systems that distribute water long distances by pipeline are
common in these areas.
In north-central Minnesota the bedrock does not yield
abundantly, but the glacial sediments are sandy and yield large
volumes of water.
In east-central Minnesota including the Twin Cities metro
area and extending up to Carlton County, surcial and buried
sand aquifers are often available and much of the bedrock is
also considered aquifer material.

The Time Factor


The rate of water movement in the hydrologic cycle varies
greatly. In the atmosphere large volumes of water can move
hundreds of miles in a day as clouds. Water movement
in rivers can also be relatively fast. For example, rates of
water movement in the Mississippi River through the Twin
Cities can be as fast as 260 cm/sec (8.5 feet per second or
5.8 miles/hour) and move as much as 150,000 cubic feet
per second. Rainwater runoff moving over the land surface
would be somewhat slower, more episodic, and of less
volume. In the ground, movement of water is much slower,
but extremely variable with rates as low as 10-9 centimeter
per second (about 1 centimeter in 30 years, or an inch in 75
years) and as high as 1 centimeter per second (0.03 ft/sec or
0.02 mile/hour).

Figure 8. This map illustrates the general distribution of sandy


(yellow) versus clayey (green) glacial deposits at the land surface.
In the gray areas, the glacial deposits are less and 50 feet thick
or absent completely. Although this map cannot illustrate the
distribution of these materials in the third dimension (depth
beneath the surface), they likely follow similar patterns related to
equivalent processes of deposition. We know that subsurface sand
bodies likely to act as aquifers are most abundant in the northcentral part of the state and less abundant in the western and
southern parts of the state.

The rate of movement of ground water is determined by


the pressure driving the water, and the ability of the host
sediment to transport water. If there is little driving force,

ground water host (Figure 7). The igneous and metamorphic


rocks that underlie the remainder of the state are generally
not aquifers due to their lack of porosity and permeability. In
some places these rocks are fractured, especially at the surface
of the rock, and these cracks can hold and supply modest
amounts of ground water to wells.
On the simplied map of the glacial sediments of
Minnesota it is the sand- and gravel-rich deposits that serve
as aquifers. These can occur as large sheets that cover many
square miles or they can occur as smaller, isolated deposits.
They can occur at the land surface, or buried beneath it and
contained within clay-rich units. This map only shows the
deposits at the land surface.
In northeastern Minnesota, where bedrock is at or very
near the land surface, both glacial and bedrock sources of
water can be difcult to nd.

Figure 9. Ground water infiltrates and moves toward a stream


where it discharges. If the water passes through materials that
dont transmit water readily, the trip can take a very long time.
From USGS Circular 1139, Winter and others, 1998.

In southeastern Minnesota there are abundant bedrock


aquifers, but the glacial sediment is thin or absent.
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


water can be nearly stagnant. There are techniques available
to measure how long water has been in subsurface aquifers.
Some techniques work in the range of decades, while others
are useful for water that entered the ground thousands of
years ago. Water that has moved through materials that
dont transport water readily, such as clay or shale, is often
relatively old. Water that has traveled through multiple layers
or great thicknesses of relatively impermeable materials may
be thousands or even a few tens of thousands of years old
(Figure 9.)

In summary, the availability and quality of water in


Minnesota varies widely due to signicantly different amounts
of precipitation, varying rates of recharge, and different
kinds and sizes and numbers of aquifers.
High quality ground water is often the result of slow water
movement and the availability of slowly recharged aquifers,
rather than the result of sound land use practices. Shallow
ground water in areas of more rapid inltration often is
contaminated.

Determining the distribution and water-bearing


characteristics of geologic materials on a scale appropriate
for land use planning will help us delineate our aquifers, and
to understand the connections between the land surface and
aquifers and between
aquifers and surface
water features. With
that knowledge in
hand value-based
judgments can
be made on what
land use and water
use practices are
Figure 10. An example of the distribution of ground water by age. Blue is very old, green is mixed, and pink
appropriate for the
is young water. Geology and pumping can affect the rate at which water moves to depth. The gray layers are
outcomes we desire.
geologic materials that impede the flow of water. Where they are disrupted by faulting the young water is
The atlases help
moving deeper more quickly. From DNR, Mower County Geologic Atlas Part B, Plate 7, Moira Campion.
policy-makers and
managers make informed judgments.
regardless of how the land above them is treated.
This slow movement of water can provide a false sense of
security in our land use practices. Aquifers that are separated
from the land surface by non-conductive materials may
continue to pump high-quality water for a very long time

Managing Water Quality and Quantity Goals

The water they are providing entered the ground thousands


of years ago, long before people lived here, and before the
substances that typically contaminate our water even existed.
This situation misleads people who believe the high quality
of water from their wells shows their practices do not
contaminate the ground water.

Water is a vital resource and essential for a healthy economy.


More water generally supports more people, or crops, or
livestock, or wildlife, or businesses. However, there is a
natural limit to the availability of water that is closely related
to long-term precipitation levels. We act at our peril when we
regularly pump ground water faster than it is being recharged.

In those parts of Minnesota where aquifers receive


recharge more quickly, the aquifers typically show
contamination even though land use practices are no different
than in places where aquifers are not yet affected. The slow
movement of water delays the effects of these practices.
Eventually, continued pumping of these aquifers creates a
gradient that will accelerate the movement of water to replace
what is pumped (Figure 10). Then the only water available
to replace it will be that being generated at the land surface
today.

Availability of water is also related to the quality of water.


Many water uses drinking water is the prime example
-- have particular quality requirements, and water of lesser
quality cannot fulll those needs. For these reasons we
wish to manage our water to maximize both its quality
and quantity. If we take into account the needs of future
generations, then we must manage our water in a way that
doesnt limit its availability or quality in the future.

Water Budgets

Similarly, it is possible to signicantly lower water levels


in isolated aquifers by pumping and no effect may be
noticeable at the land surface. However, this change in
gradient will eventually cause a lowering of water levels in
shallower aquifers and surface water bodies as they lose water
downward toward the pumped aquifer. In some cases the rate
of pumping may exceed the rate of recharge and the water
level will continue to fall.

The hydrologic cycle clearly shows that water moves


through our landscape, with water arriving to balance that
which is leaving. We also know that water can accumulate in
large quantities in aquifers underground, and that it can reside
there for long periods. In Minnesota, we typically choose to
use aquifers as our water supply rather than collecting rain
in reservoirs, because aquifers provide a more continuous
supply, they are less sensitive to short-term variations in
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


inputs and outputs of water. This is best accomplished in
an area with boundaries that either do not allow the transfer
of water, or where that transfer can be accurately measured
or estimated. Political boundaries generally do not meet this
requirement. Rivers are often used as boundaries in these
exercises because they represent a measureable discharge of
ground water. Factors such as precipitation, runoff, stream
ow rates, evaporation, transpiration, and pumping are
measured. A balance can then be determined. An outcome
might be that XX gallons of water per year can be pumped
within the boundaries of this area. However, more work may
be necessary to determine where, and at what rate, that water
can be taken without drawing down the aquifer, surface
waters, or other wells beyond the capacity to recharge in a
similar time frame.

the weather, and they are protected to some degree from


contamination . However, it is possible to overuse aquifers
and jeopardize the continuous supply we desire for ourselves
and future generations. Taking too much water from aquifers
can also draw down surface waters (lakes, rivers, wetlands,
springs) that provide great benet to humans, sh and
wildlife.
By measuring precipitation, discharge of ground water to
rivers, and other factors, we can estimate how much water
moves through an area over time, and thereby determine how
much we can use without causing a decit.
This kind of study has been performed in Minnesota and
water use has been compared to the recurring availability of

The Impacts of Pumping


When we pump ground water there are three possible
effects:
Pumping lowers the water level in the vicinity of the
well in the shape of a cone. The size and shape of the
cone are determined by the water-bearing characteristics
of the aquifer, and the rate of pumping. The resulting
low spot causes water to ow toward the well. Recharge
rates may increase as the cone of depression created by
the pumping well captures water that would have gone
somewhere else had the pumping not occurred.
Discharge from the aquifer being pumped may decrease.
For example, pumping from an aquifer feeding a spring
may decrease discharge to the spring or even stop it
from owing.
Pumping may lower the water level in the aquifer. This is
a decrease in the water stored in the aquifer.
Commonly, more than one, or some combination of these
effects occurs. It is important to recognize that pumping
water out of the ground does have consequences and to
decide which effects and outcomes are acceptable, and which
are not.

Figure 11. Water use in Minnesota by County

water on a county basis (see: Use of Minnesotas Renewable


Water Resources- Moving Toward Sustainability- A report
of the Environmental Quality Board and Department of
Natural Resources, April 2007). It showed that over much of
Minnesota human water use is only a small percentage of the
estimated total water available although some of the highly
populated counties used a large percentage of the available
ux of water, and one county actually exceeded that amount
(Figure 11).

Knowing where the aquifer is and what it is made of makes


it possible to predict the impact of pumping on water levels
and estimate the rates at which water can be withdrawn
without harming other wells or surface waters.

How Much Is Too Much?


It is helpful to think of aquifers as a savings account.
Precipitation and associated recharge are income, and
pumping and discharge to surface waters are spending. When
pumping and discharge exceed recharge, the aquifer level
begins to fall. This is like spending money faster than your
income provides it-- your bank account shrinks.

To make the best use of this kind of estimate of water


availability it is necessary to understand the distribution and
water-bearing characteristics of aquifers, recharge, surface
water features, water use (wells), and the ultimate fate of the
water used. A budget must be constructed that accounts for

With aquifers, and bank accounts, we can use the resource


faster than it is being replaced, but only temporarily. During a
8

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


drinking water, rather than municipal water systems, consume
raw untreated ground water that originally fell on elds,
roads, feedlots, and all other parts of the land surface before
moving underground.

multi-year drought, recharge is negligible and we continue to


pump from our aquifers. The water level will begin to fall, but
hopefully rain returns before the effects on the aquifer create
problems. In order for the aquifers to recover fully, there
must be a period in which recharge exceeds pumping causing
the water level to rise.

Soil does have some capacity to improve water quality.


In particular, soils with high organic content and thriving
biologic activity are good at removing nutrients and breaking
down some contaminants. However, these systems have a
limited capacity that is often exceeded. Clay-rich soils and
earth materials also have some capacity to bind contaminants
and impede their travel. As mentioned earlier, most of us
benet from the slow movement of ground water that
allows us access to water that entered the ground long before
contaminants were introduced. That is not a permanent
solution.

There are places where aquifers are being pumped at rates


that exceed recharge and the water levels in the aquifers
continue to fall. This is clearly not sustainable because each
aquifer has a nite thickness and eventually the water level
will fall to the bottom of the aquifer and water will not be
available.
In the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area aquifer water levels have
fallen nearly 500 feet over the last 130 years and continue
to fall. When determining a sustainable water supply rate,
the question is not how much water is in this aquifer? but
rather at what rate does this aquifer recharge, and how does
that rate compare to water use and the amounts required to
maintain surface water features? In Minnesota, where we
have a life style, and economy, and identity closely linked
to lakes and rivers and the sh and wildlife they support,
keeping aquifer levels adequately high to maintain these
surface waters is a priority.

The key to managing water quality is to avoid or minimize


contact of water with contaminants. When potential
contaminants are introduced they should be introduced no
faster than natural systems can utilize or break them down
into harmless compounds or concentrations. There are also
efforts under way to change the products we use every day
so that they dont cause harm and can be removed or made
harmless by natural systems or the treatment systems we
employ.

Managing Water Quality

Keeping Track- How Are We Doing?

Water is often called the universal solvent. It tends to


dissolve things it comes in contact with and these things
then travel with the water. This is true of both natural and
man-made compounds. Water in some of the aquifers
of southwestern and western Minnesota has relatively
high concentrations of sulfate from the sediments of the
formations the water occupies or passed through. Some
aquifers on the North Shore of Lake Superior contain saline
water far saltier than seawater. These are naturally poorquality waters.

Water supply managers track the water in wells to see if


levels are being maintained and they continually analyze water
samples to see if it is good enough for public use. A key to
meaningful monitoring is knowing what land areas, what
wells, and what activities can affect the quality or quantity of
water in the monitored well. If the quality of water in a well
shows a change, we need to know what land areas recharge
that aquifer (via overland ow and inltration), and what the
land uses and practices on those lands are. This allows us
to consider changes that will improve the water quality. If
water levels show a continuous fall in a monitoring well we
need to know what wells and natural discharge points utilize
that aquifer so that we can change pumping practices and
manage the impact on surface waters. In both cases, geologic
maps at scales useful for planning and aquifer management,
with associated data bases such as well information with
locations and aquifers identied, are the necessary tools
to understand and react to the situation. It is important to
realize that monitoring is reactionary. Action is only taken
after effects are seen, and the time lag common to ground
water movement delays the signs of trouble, and increases the
time necessary to correct problems.

Similar effects can occur when humans introduce wastes,


road salt, solvents, pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and
other commonly used products into the hydrologic cycle. If
I drop food on the ground I might wash it off before I eat
it. However, all of our drinking water falls on the ground
and we often have no opportunity to clean that water before
we drink it. Even in large municipal water supply systems,
water goes through a limited process designed mostly to
remove pathogens and maintain clarity. These systems are
not designed to remove many of the other contaminants we
introduce. Furthermore, the treatment of wastewater doesnt
always return it to its original quality. For example, individual
sewage treatment systems that rural and some suburban
homeowners rely on do a relatively good job of removing
pathogens, but they dont remove the nitrates introduced by
our wastes. Nor do they effectively remove some common
pharmaceuticals.

Modeling- Predicting Outcomes


If a city anticipates growth, it plans for new wells to supply
the necessary water. Installation of a new municipal well
in the suburbs of the Metro Area can easily cost $750,000.
A permit is necessary and pumping tests may be required

Homeowners with wells as their primary source of


9

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


before the permit is granted. If the tests show that the well
is likely to negatively impact other wells or surface waters,
the well may not be permitted, and the costs of constructing
it are largely wasted. Hydrologists have mathematical means
of predicting the effects of pumping if they have a good
understanding of the distribution of earth materials and the
water-bearing characteristics of those materials. A computerbased simulation (model) of the hydrologic system can
be constructed and potential well locations can be tested
before spending any funds on wells. These methods provide
the means of predicting outcomes prior to expensive
infrastructure investments. They can also be used to predict
the spread of contaminants and to test the effectiveness of
methods proposed to remove contamination.

amount of low permeability overlying material). More


conned aquifers should be used only as necessary.
Deeper and more conned aquifers (those that recharge
slowly through overlying materials that convey water
at very low rates or over long distances) contain our
highest quality water and water that will take a long time
to replenish. These most valuable resources might be
reserved for special purposes and special circumstances.
An example of this is the Minnesota Statute that
reserves use of the Mt. Simon aquifer in the Metro area
for drinking water purposes and prohibits use of this
resource for lower priority and nonessential purposes
such as lawn watering. Surface water sources and less
conned aquifers are easier to monitor, and respond
more quickly to our actions. With shallow systems we
are more likely to see the effects of our use and take
action to manage those effects as opposed to utilizing
deep systems that delay and obscure the effects of our
practices.

Guidance and Best Practices


for Water Management:
Choices about how we use water, and how much water we
use, impact both water supply and water quality. An obvious
choice is to minimize use. There is nothing to be gained
from using more water than necessary, and use always comes
at a cost. Minimizing transport of water and water quality
degradation will also help maintain the water resources we
need to maintain quality of life into the future.

Return water should be of similar quality to the water


that is taken -- water treatment technology should be
evaluated and enhancements considered. The discharge
of degraded water will impact our surface or ground
water resources, or those downstream. The quality of
our future water supply is directly related to the quality
of water we put into the system today.

Water availability and quality should be included in all


planning exercises, not only plans focused on ground water.
This is especially true for plans that affect the distribution of
population, industrial development, and other water intensive
development.

Whenever possible, high-capacity water users should


be directed to those places that have more water or less
dependency on water. Utilize planning to avoid stressing
resources unnecessarily.

Here are some basic tenets of this conservative use


philosophy:

Water availability is xed, but more can be done with the


same volume of water through conservation and reuse.
Some needs could be supported with reused water,
lower quality water, or wastewater. Stormwater retention
and use might also be useful.

Utilize water in a manner that returns as much of it as


possible to the location from which it was taken. Some
water uses dont actually consume much water. Use
within a home is a good example. Most of the water is
used and then discharged to some type of wastewater
treatment system. If it is an onsite wastewater treatment
system (septic) the water is returned near the point
it was taken, although probably not directly to the
aquifer that supplied it. However, if it is discharged to a
regional waste water treatment system the water may be
discharged after treatment tens of miles from where it
was found. In this case the use is not consumptive, but
transports the water far from where it was taken. Lawn
watering is a highly consumptive use. Most of the water
is evaporated or transpired into the atmosphere and
transported far from the location where it was obtained.
Other examples of more consumptive use are bottling
water or putting water into products that will be shipped
away. Water use for cooling that evaporates the water is
also highly consumptive.

Part 2: the Elements of a Geologic Atlas


- how they are made, and
how they can be used
Databases
Each atlas contains a database map that conveys the
distribution of data used in the construction of the atlas
products. Data types common to atlases are water well
construction records; geophysical surveys (downhole, seismic,
gravity, magnetic); outcrops of rock or exposures of subsoil
materials; engineering, scientic, and exploration borings;
cores and drill cuttings; and textural or chemical analyses
of samples. All maps and atlas products use multiple data
sources. Most of these data represent information about the
geology or hydrology at the location they were collected. It

Surface water sources should be utilized rst, and


then the least conned aquifers (aquifers with the least
10

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


is up to the geologist or hydrologist to use their experience
and knowledge to ll in the spaces between the data points
to create a map. It is prudent when using the maps to look
at the database map to evaluate how much, and what types,
of data were available to support the map. Most of these
data will be discussed in the description of the maps or atlas
products they support. The County Well Index database will
be discussed here in detail because of it is the most abundant
data type, it is used for many applications, and it is useful as a
stand-alone resource.

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890
944
898
878 919
902
949
884
932

846

The County Well Index (CWI) database contains


information about more than 450,000 wells drilled across
Minnesota. These records include information useful to
geologic mapping and hydrologic investigations such as
descriptions of the sediment and rock penetrated by the well,
and the water level of the aquifer that supplies water to the
well. Some of these records came from the personal records
of well drilling contractors who collected this information

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CWI information online at http://www.health.


state.mn.us/divs/eh/cwi/ and it is also distributed
on DVDs by the MGS Map Sales Ofce.

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Figure 12. A plot of CWI data points labeled with the elevation
of the bedrock surface. A geologist has drawn contours of the
bedrock surface elevation in a geographic information system
program.

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County Well Index (CWI)

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Figure 13. A plot of CWI data projected to a cross-section line. The vertical
lines represent wells and the colors represent different sediment types (clay,
sand,gravel, silt, till). The upper black line indicates the elevation of the land
surface, the bottom black line the elevation of the bedrock surface. Colored
lines between represent geologic units.

MGS uses the CWI information in creating


geologic maps, including those constructed for
county geologic atlases. In the process of building
a geologic atlas, MGS or its local partner veries
the locations and elevations for wells of a particular
county. Geologic units and aquifers are identied
as part of the map-making process. That process
compiles information from many wells into a
geologic map and allows us to recognize and assign
formal names to geologic units common to multiple
well records.
CWI data is often plotted in map view with unit

for their own use. The bulk of the records were submitted as
required by law, beginning in 1974. The database is operated
cooperatively by the Minnesota Geological Survey (MGS) and
the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). MGS adds
value to the well information by interpreting the descriptions
of the materials penetrated by the well and assigning more
formal rock and sediment names and aquifer designations
common to the geologic framework of Minnesota. This
provides a common understanding and consistency among
the many users of CWI including resource management
agencies, state and local government units, consultants,
engineers, drillers, citizens, and researchers.
Each well record that is submitted has information
about where the well is located. MGS and others have
established accurate, eld-checked locations for 235,000 of
the wells (51%) and most of these are part of a geographic
information system (GIS) le that can be used to create map
products based on the well information. Users can obtain

Figure 14. A depiction of sand distribution in Wright County


generated by a statistical treatment of CWI data. Color indicates
elevation above sea level (red-higher, blue-lower). The program can
be adjusted to yield different scenarios for the geologist to consider
in creating maps. The program calculates the likelihood of sand
occurring in areas between known data points.
11

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


we can infer what rock type
lies below, and how deeply it is
buried under unconsolidated
materials left by glacial activity.
Approximately 60,000 gravity
measurements have been made
in Minnesota and this data set
is particularly useful in mapping
the igneous and metamorphic
rocks that occur beneath glacial
materials or younger sedimentary
Figure 15. A three-dimensional view of CWI data for Chisago County. The wells are color-coded bedrock.
(red indicates bedrock, green-clay or till, and blue-sand. The dark blue bodies are surface lakes.
The data can be tilted or rotated to any perspective, and the scale can be changed for added
detail.

elevations or water levels or other features labeled to support


mapping of those features (Figure 12). The well data is also
projected to lines and color-coded by lithology (sediment
type) to facilitate the drafting of cross-sectional views of
geologic strata (Figure 13). We also utilize GIS programs
to generate three-dimensional representations of geologic
materials to assist geologists in mapping (Figure 14) and to
provide a big picture view of large data sets (Figure 15).

Quaternary Data Index (QDI)


MGS has developed a new database called Quaternary Data
Index that contains information related to unconsolidated
deposits, usually at depths of less than 50 feet. The database
structure is similar to the County Well Index, but has added
capabilities to allow the inclusion of engineering test results,
textural analyses (grain size distribution, sand lithology),
outcrop descriptions, and other data.

The earths magnetic eld


is affected by the distribution
of magnetic minerals (mostly
magnetite). In Minnesota these minerals are mostly found in
the bedrock, but magnitite in particular can be concentrated
in glacial stream sediments as well. The magnetic eld
variations across Minnesota has been well-documented by an
airborne survey of the entire state (Figure 16). An airplane
towed a magnetometer across the state in a grid pattern
and recorded magnetic intensity. That information can be
manipulated mathematically to discern the spatial geometry
of bodies of rock and the presence of faults. This method
is particularly useful in Minnesota where the bedrock is
mostly buried and therefore not visible. Minnesota has a
particularly high quality set of magnetic data and it is used

The data come from MGS investigations and analyses,


current or previous projects, and from external sources.
Currently it is our intention to add data as we need it to
complete current projects. It is not a comprehensive database
like CWI that strives to collect all the data of a certain type,
and at this time it is not a public database. It is specically
designed to support geologic mapping, and it is populated to
support our current projects.

Geophysical Data
Geophysical data are measurements of the properties of
earth and earth materials. Often these measurements are
useful in identifying and mapping bodies of rock or sediment,
and some of these techniques can see through overlying
materials and allow us to map units that are not exposed at
the land surface. There are techniques applicable to many
kinds of earth materials, but in the County Geologic Atlas
program geophysics is most commonly applied to mapping
features of the bedrock.
Figure 16. Aeromatnetic anomaly map of Minnesota showing
variations of the ambient magnetic field as a function of bedrock
geology.

The density of the bedrock beneath us causes subtle


variations in the earths gravitational eld. By measuring
the intensity of gravity at many places across the landscape
12

100

API-G units

Thickness (feet)

Lithology

Map symbol

Group, Formation,
Member

Composite natural
gamma log
Increasing count

#249737

Dakota Formation

LITHOLOGY KEY
Sandy dolostone

17 to 86

MESOZOIC

Geologic interpretation of gravity and magnetic anomaly


data is greatly enhanced if density, magnetic susceptibility and
natural remnant magnetization (NRM) data are measured on
representative rock-type samples. Rock property data help
relate the patterns seen in gravity and magnetic eld maps
to the rock types that are likely causing those patterns. The
patterns are also compared to the rocks found in outcrops
and drill core samples to verify correlations. MGS maintains
a database of rock property data acquired over the last two
decades. Additional data have been gleaned from studies done
elsewhere on rocks similar to, or identical to those found in
Minnesota.

Lithostratigraphic
unit

Hydrostratigraphic
properties

Era

Cretaceous
(~99.6 - 93.5 m.y.)

in the construction of virtually all maps of igneous and


metamorphic bedrock.

SystemSeries

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0

Kd

Sandstone
Very fine- to fine-grained
Fine- to medium-grained
Medium- to coarse-grained

Very coarse-grained
Shaly
#749389

Siltstone

Our understanding of subsurface conditions can also be


improved with seismic geophysical investigations. Traditional
seismic studies use an energy source to send mechanical
waves into the ground. The location and timing of the
echo of these waves enables us to estimate the thickness
of the glacial sediments that overlie the bedrock, and to infer
the kind of rock. For this application a relatively small source
of energy is used, for example, a sledge hammer and metal
plate, or a ve foot steel piston driven by a very large rubber
band. In oil elds this technology is used to understand
the arrangement of multiple layers of sedimentary rock. In
Minnesota we are mostly applying it to measure the depth
to bedrock, or the thickness of glacial material covering the
bedrock.

150

Shale

Lone Rock Formation

Upper Cambrian
(501 - 491 m.y.)

Tunnel City Group

Mazomanie
Formation

Reno and
Tomah
Members

Dolomitic

50 - 60

PALEOZOIC

Contact marks a major erosional surface

Relatively high permeability (aquifer)

70 - 80
#592508

100 - 190

Middle Cambrian
(504 - 501 m.y.)

In recent years the MGS has deployed a relatively new


seismic method known as horizontal to vertical spectral ratio
(HVSR) or more commonly passive seismic. This method
relies on ambient energy in the subsurface (passive) rather
than creating energy waves with an active source such as
swinging a hammer onto a metal plate. Ambient sources
include vehicle trafc, wind, tides, and low-frequency waves
ubiquitous to the earths crust. A very small and portable
instrument is used to collect data for 16 to 20 minutes
and the data is processed to identify reectors, such as
the bedrock surface. Again, our focus is on identifying the
position of the bedrock surface and how deeply it is buried.
As we gain experience with this method we are developing
better mathematical solutions that are calibrated to Minnesota
geology and well-established well data.

HYDROSTRATIGRAPHIC PROPERTIES KEY

Relatively low permeability (except for


fractures: aquitard)
High permeability bedding fracture

G
G

Granitic pebbles

Worm bored

#788479

Mt. Simon
Sandstone

Volcanic rocks (basalt)

Pebbles (gravel in unconsolidated units)

Vein quartz

Eau Claire
Formation

Potassium feldspar

Wonewoc
Sandstone

Fossils (not used in dolostone units)

Glauconite

Gr

Birkmose
Member

K
K

Fond du Lac
and Solor Church
Mss
Formations

V
V

#777352

K
K

thousands of feet

MESOPROTEROZOIC

Solor Church
Formation

V
Gr

Figure 17. The line on the right is a measurement of the amount


of natural gamma radiation emitted from rock in the subsurface
as a function of depth in a well. On the left is the interpretation of
the major rock units. In sedimentary sequences, the gamma plot is
distinctive and consistent, making formations easier to recognize.

The MGS also deploys geophysical instruments in


boreholes, usually water wells or holes drilled for scientic
purposes. Downhole geophysics is a technique developed
in the oil elds that uses a variety of probes to measure
properties of the rocks and sediment exposed in the borehole
wall, and the water within those materials. The probe used
most often in Minnesota measures natural gamma radiation.
This is a naturally occurring phenomenon and the intensity
of the radiation is generally related to the concentration of
uranium, thorium, and potassium in the materials penetrated

by the borehole. As the probe is raised from the borehole


bottom a recorder notes the depth and the gamma radiation
level continuously. The gamma radiation levels help us
identify the rock types penetrated by the borehole or well.
When a number of surveys have been made in the same
sequence of sedimentary rocks the graph of depth versus
gamma radiation becomes like a signature, and the formations
in the sequence can be readily recognized (Figure 17).
13

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


materials (cobbles and gravel) will only be carried by high
energy water, intermediate materials (sand) require less
energy, and clay will only be deposited when the energy of
the water wanes and allows it to fall from suspension.

This technique is especially useful because it works even in


boreholes with steel or plastic casing. We often conduct these
surveys in water wells, either before a pump is installed, or
when the pump is pulled for maintenance or abandonment.
This allows us to acquire very reliable interpretations of the
subsurface geology at very low cost. Other methods measure
electrical properties, the shape of the borehole, or even the
movement of water in the borehole. All of these can be
interpreted to help us understand subsurface geology and
hydrology. MGS has geophysical logs for more than 6,000
wells in Minnesota and we collect about 200 more each year.

Traditionally, the geologist has been given a twodimensional sheet of paper to record everything they
know about the geologic units present in a map form.
This may include the color and texture of the sediment, an
interpretation of the geologic process responsible for its
deposition, its relative thickness, which episode of glaciation
deposited it, and to what degree erosion has affected it. This
results in a relatively complex map, with many units, each
representing a unique combination of these attributes, and
each unit potentially present in multiple places on the map.
However, this was the only way to convey all that information
on a single map. Today we have the ability to record all that
information in a computer-based geographic information
system (GIS) and then create maps based on any one of
the attributes, or any combination of the attributes that
best serves our purpose. For example, if we were mostly
interested in seeing where sand occurs at the land surface vs.
clay, we could make a map based solely on that attribute with
just a few key strokes (Figure 18). That map would be much
simpler than the traditional geologic map, and it might be
more meaningful and easier to use for certain purposes. The
GIS also allows us to work with the combinations of geologic
information and any other data with geographic (location)
information. We could make a map to highlight where
wetlands exist over sand, or to correlate vegetation patterns
with geologic features. The traditional geologic map is still the
most comprehensive method of conveying all the attributes
of the surcial geology, and for that reason it is the style of
map printed for the atlas. However, the digital version of the
map provides the opportunity to create customized maps
better suited to particular uses.

Surcial Geologic Maps


A surcial geologic map depicts the properties of the
geologic materials that exist at the land surface. In most
parts of Minnesota the surcial geology map shows units
associated with glaciation over the last 2 million years, and
some more modern processes.
A surcial geologic map represents geologic (and related
hydrologic) conditions at that important interface where
precipitation either inltrates and becomes ground water,
or runs over the land surface and drains to a surface water
feature. It is the same surface where almost all human activity
takes place and potentially introduces contaminants into the
hydrologic cycle.
The glacial materials can be divided into two major groups:
unsorted materials (a mixture of grain sizes like gravel, sand,
silt, and clay) deposited directly by ice, and sediment that has
been sorted (separated by grain size) by water or wind. The
sorted materials vary in their ability to convey water, with
larger grain sizes (gravel and sand) generally being effective
at hosting and transmitting water. Silt would be less effective,
and clay generally impedes water movement. In the unsorted
materials (called till or diamicton) the presence of clay, even
in small amounts, greatly reduces the connectivity of pores
and the resulting ability to convey water.

In addition to the geologic map, the atlases provide a


detailed description of each map unit, map symbols that
indicate the location of glacial landforms, a description of
the physical characteristics of the deposits of each glacial
advance, and a summary of the glacial history of the county
(Figure 18).

Both direct and indirect data types support surcial


geologic mapping. Direct evidence includes examination
and description of materials exposed at the land surface
(unvegetated), descriptions of materials obtained from
shallow borings, and descriptions of materials from the
construction records of water wells. The geologic materials
might also be inferred from landforms seen and described
in the eld, or recognized from topographic maps, stereo
pair air photos that show relief, or LIDAR, a high-resolution
measurement of the shape of the land surface. When
landforms can be recognized as the product of certain glacial
environments, their material composition can be ascribed
with reasonable accuracy.

The surcial geologic map is the precursor to some


important resource management maps. Pollution sensitivity
maps, as created by the DNR for Part B of geologic atlases,
rely on the surcial geologic map to indicate areas where
focused recharge is likely. This would correspond to areas
where sorted deposits of sand and gravel occur at the land
surface. Because these materials are capable of transmitting
water relatively quickly, there is the potential for water-borne
contaminants to enter the ground water system rapidly.
This information can be helpful in deciding where activities
that involve hazardous materials should take place, and in
determining the appropriate response to spills of potential

As a glacier advances, there is always meltwater issuing


from the front. That water transports sediment from the
glacier and sorts the sediment and then deposits various size
components as the velocity of the water changes. Coarse
14

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


Prepared and Published with the Support of

36

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320

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32
0

Qno

SHERBURNE COUNTY

AL
C
S
:0
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1
1

33

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Qco

+
+

Qci

320

MILLE LACS COUNTY

360

++

95
Qco

36310

Qco

31

Qcs

320

320

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320

Rive
r

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Qns

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36

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R. 29 W.

R. 28 W.

D'

SHERBURNE COUNTY
GIS compilation by R.S. Lively
Edited by Lori Robinson

MAP SYMBOLS

Superior-lobe ice

St.
ix

Cro
ine
ora

Benton County

Figure 4. The Superior lobe paused in its retreat from the St. Croix
moraine at the St. Stephen ice margin, before rapidly retreating across
Benton County.

Geologic contactApproximately located.


General flow direction of braided streamsArrow points downstream in the direction
glacial meltwater last flowed.
Stream-cut scarpHachures point downslope; dashed where discontinuous or obscure;
marks the flanks of a former fluvial channel. Boundaries of outwash and terrace
units and alluvium are commonly at scarps, so are not shown by a scarp symbol.
Where paired, scarps bound stream-scoured areas. Till surfaces on the hachured
side of scarps are fluvially scoured and mantled in places by sand and gravel too
thin and patchy to map separately.
Maximum extent of glacial Lake GrantsburgAbout 1,120 feet (341 meters) above mean
sea level (Meyer, 2008). The lake was bounded to the southeast by the Grantsburg
sublobe (Fig. 6).
+++
EskerA
sinuous ridge of predominantly sand and gravel, interpreted to have been
++ +
deposited in an ice-walled tunnel of a glacial meltwater stream flowing at the base
of Superior-lobe ice. Points in the inferred flow direction.
DrumlinA streamlined hill or ridge, typically of glacial till, with the arrow showing
the inferred direction of ice movement. The length of the arrow is approximately
equivalent to the drumlin length. Drumlins are partially masked in places by
supraglacial sediment or eolian sand.
Broad, irregular troughHachures point downslope; identified by alignment of depressions
and lakes. Likely mark collapsed and filled channels. Many of these troughs are
interpreted to reflect valleys cut by meltwater flowing beneath Superior-lobe ice
that were partially buried by subsequent glacial events. Drainage channels beneath
Superior-lobe ice locally eroded deeply into the substrate, in places exploiting
pre-existing bedrock valleys. These tunnel valleys in places were reoccupied by
proglacial meltwater of the receding Superior lobe. Most of the southwesterly
trending valleys in the county likely originated as subglacial valleys.
Glacial striation measurementArrow shows direction of ice flow (Upham, 1888; Jirsa,
M.A., unpub. data).
Line
of
geologic cross section illustrated on Plate 4, Quaternary Stratigraphy.
A
A'

Superior-lob
e ice

REFERENCES

St.
ine
ora
ixm

Cro

Benton County

Figure 5. Retreatal position of the Superior lobe just prior to its final
exit from Benton County.

Benton County

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Cro
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Riding Mountain
Provenance

rg

St.

s-l
Moine
Des

Figure 2. Physical relief of the land surface in Benton County. Elevation is shown by color: red (higher
surface elevation) grading to blue (lower surface elevation). A false sun illumination at an elevation of 30
from the northwest (315) provides contrast (gray shadowing) to accent details of landforms. The map was
created using the U.S. Geological Survey's Digital Elevation Model with a 30-meter grid.

Winnipeg
Provenance

Grantsburg-sublobe ice
Rainy
Provenance

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Mesa

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in e
Bra lob

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!

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The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator


and employer

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2010 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota

s-lob

lobe

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ix

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Benton County

Moine

nes

Moi

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ase
!

St.

Cro
ix

Superior
Provenance

Figure 3. Location of major provenances (source


regions). Glacial sediments deposited in the county
derive their distinct material content from bedrock and
sediment found in the region of these provenances.
During the last glaciation, the Michigan Subepisode,
Benton County was initially covered by ice carrying
debris of both Rainy (Wadena lobe) and Superior
provenance. The approximate interlobate boundary
and easternmost extent of the Wadena lobe is shown
by the dashed line running through western Benton
County. When the Wadena lobe waned, the Superior
lobe flowed west, completely covering the county
(the line of maximum extent is dotted where covered
by the Des Moines lobe). After the retreat of the
Superior lobe, the flank of the Grantsburg sublobe
of the Des Moines lobe moved into southernmost
Benton County.

Des

rg
bu
nts be
Grasublo

Figure 6. Maximum extent of the Grantsburg sublobe and glacial


Lake Grantsburg in Benton County.

Cooper, W.S., 1935, The history of the upper Mississippi River in late Wisconsin and postglacial time: Minnesota
Geological Survey Bulletin 26, 116 p.
Ellingson, J.B., 2002, Aggregate resources, Benton County, Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources, Division of Lands and Minerals Report 305, 4 pls., scale 1:100,000.
Johnson, M.D., 2000, Pleistocene geology of Polk County, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Geological and Natural
History Survey Bulletin 92, 70 p., 1 pl., sclae 1:100,000.
Johnson, M.D., Addis, K.L., Ferber, L.R., Hemstad, C.B., Meyer, G.N., and Komai, L.T., 1999, Glacial Lake
Lind, Wisconsin and Minnesota: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 111, no. 9, p. 1371-1386.
Johnson, M.D., and Hemstad, C., 1998, Glacial Lake Grantsburg: A short-lived lake recording the advance and
retreat of the Grantsburg sublobe, in Patterson, C.J., and Wright, H.E., Jr., eds., Contributions to Quaternary
studies in Minnesota: Minnesota Geological Survey Report of Investigations 49, p. 49-60.
Johnson, W.H., Hansel, S.K., Bettis, E.A., III, Karrow, P.F., Larson, G.J., Lowell, T.V., and Schneider, A.F.,
1997, Late Quaternary temporal and event classifications, Great Lakes region, North America: Quaternary
Research, v. 47, p. 1-12.
Keen, K.L., and Shane, L.C.K., 1990, A continuous record of Holocene eolian activity and vegetation change
at Lake Ann, east-central Minnesota: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 102, p. 1642-1657.
Knaeble, A.R., and Meyer, G.N., 2007, Quaternary stratigraphy, pl. 4 of Setterholm, D.R., project manager,
Geologic atlas of Todd County, Minnesota: Minnesota Geological Survey County Atlas C-18, pt. A, 6 pls.,
scale 1:100,000.
Marlow, L.M., Larson, P.C., and Mooers, H.D., 2005, Field trip 3, Day 2Deposits along the central and eastern
parts of the St. Louis sublobe, in Robinson, L., ed., Field trip guidebook for selected geology in Minnesota
and Wisconsin: Minnesota Geological Survey Guidebook 21, p. 51-72.
Meyer, G.N., 1998, Glacial lakes of the Stacy basin, east-central Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin, in Patterson,
C.J., and Wright, H.E., Jr., eds., Contributions to the Quaternary of Minnesota: Minnesota Geological
Survey Report of Investigations 49, p. 35-48.
2008, Surficial geology of the Mora 30 x 60 minute quadrangle, central Minnesota: Minnesota Geological
Survey Miscellaneous Map M-180, scale 1:100,000.
Meyer, G.N., and Hobbs, H.C., 1993, Quaternary geologic map of Sherburne County, Minnesota: Minnesota
Geological Survey Miscellaneous Map M-77, scale 1:100,000.
Meyer, G.N., and Knaeble, A.R., 1996, Quaternary geology, in Meyer, G.N., and Swanson, L., eds., Text
supplement to the geologic atlas, Stearns County, Minnesota: Minnesota Geological Survey County Atlas
C-10, pt. C, p. 16-39.
Meyer, G.N., Knaeble, A.R., and Ellingson, J.B., 2001, Surficial geology of the St. Cloud 30 x 60 minute quadrangle,
central Minnesota: Minnesota Geological Survey Miscellaneous Map M-115, scale 1:100,000.
Meyer, G.N., and Patterson, C.J., 1999, Surficial geology of the Anoka 30 x 60 minute quadrangle, Minnesota:
Minnesota Geological Survey Miscellaneous Map M-97, scale 1:100,000.
Minnesota Department of Transportation, 2009, Office of materials and road research (borings): St. Paul, Minn.,
<http://www.mrrapps.dot.state.mn.us/gisweb.viewer.htm>.
Mooers, H.D., 1990, Discriminating texturally similar tills in central Minnesota by graphical and multivariate
techniques: Quaternary Research, v. 34, p. 133-147.
Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2009, Web soil survey of Benton County: Washington, D.C., U.S.
Department of Agriculture, <http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/WebSoilSurvey.aspx>.
Upham, W., 1888, The geology of Benton and Sherburne Counties, Minnesota: Geological and Natural History
Survey of Minnesota Final Report, v. 2, p. 438.
Wright, H.E., Jr., 1972, Quaternary history of Minnesota, in Sims, P.K., and Morey, G.B., eds., Geology of
Minnesota: A centennial volume: Minnesota Geological Survey, p. 515-547.
Wright, H.E., Jr., Mattson, L.A., and Thomas, J.A., 1970, Geology of the Cloquet quadrangle, Carlton County,
Minnesota: Minnesota Geological Survey Geologic Map GM-3, 30 p.
Table 1. Physical characteristics of glacial deposits in the Benton County region.
PROVENANCE
TILL TEXTURE

Grantsburg-sublobe ice

Figure 7. Isolated water bodies connected by the Duelm channel to


a reduced glacial Lake Grantsburg.

TILL COLOR
Oxidized
Unoxidized
PEBBLE TYPE
Carbonate
Gray-green rock
Red felsite
Gray shale

RIDING MOUNTAIN

WINNIPEG

RAINY

SUPERIOR

Sandy loam to
sandy clay loam

Loam to silt loam


to clay loam

Loam to
sandy loam

Loam to
loamy sand

Light olive-brown
Gray to dark gray

Light olive-brown
Gray to dark gray

Yellow-brown
Gray to brown-gray

Brown to red-brown
Gray to red-gray

Common
Uncommon to common
Rare to uncommon
Uncommon to common

Common to abundant
Uncommon to common
Absent to uncommon
Absent to rare

Uncommon
Uncommon to common
Rare to uncommon
Absent

Rare to uncommon
Common to abundant
Uncommon to common
Absent

GEOLOGIC ATLAS OF BENTON COUNTY, MINNESOTA

contaminants.

Qns

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Michigan
Subepisode

Wisconsin
Episode

QUATERNARY

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PALEOPROTEROZOIC
and NEOARCHEAN

Qwl

Qwr

SUMMARY OF GLACIAL HISTORY


T. 36 N.

Qp
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320

Qco

GLENDORADO

S
E
IL
M
5

CONTOUR INTERVAL 10 METERS

Figure 1. The map units from the 1:100,000 surficial geology map are combined into three simplified units in
this figure: green is less permeable diamicton (glacial till) and bedded silt and clay; yellow is more permeable,
bedded sand to gravel; and purple is bedrock. Water bodies are white.

Qci

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+ +Qa

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The surficial geology map of Benton County shows the earth material expected
to be encountered below the topsoil, generally about 3 feet (1 meter) below the
land surface. This map was modified from recently published maps (Meyer and
others, 2001; Ellingson, 2002; Meyer, 2008) on the basis of an expanded water
well data base compiled for this study (Plate 1, Data-Base Map); 18 shallow auger
holes and 5 deeper rotary-sonic core holes carried out for this study; examination
of new exposures (mostly in gravel pits); bridge boring records from the Benton
County Highway Department and from the Minnesota Department of Transportation
(2009); and evaluation of the updated soil survey (Natural Resources Conservation
Service, 2009). In Figure 1, the surficial sediments are grouped into more permeable
(bedded sand to gravel) and less permeable (bedded silt to clay and diamicton)
units. The topographic expression created by glacial sculpturing and subsequent
meltwater and wind erosion and deposition is displayed on the Digital Elevation
Model (Fig. 2).

C'

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0
34

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INTRODUCTION

St.

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r
Rive

15
T. 36 N.
LOCATION DIAGRAM

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0
33w
ayhe

0
34

Hudson
Episode

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31

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T. 37 N.

340

350

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SAUK
RAPIDS

Sartell

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34
0

36

31

36

Qa

Qe

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Qns

Ql

Qwl
Qwr

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Qco

Foley

Qp

Qf

MAYWOOD

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Qcd

32

Qct

Qcs

350

Qns

0
34

Qco

Oak
Park

Qcs

GILMANTON

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330

MAYHEW
340
LAKE

31

33

Qe

Qp

New Ulm
formation
Cromwell
Formation

340

Qp
360

0
34

36

Br
ook

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350

350

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350

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er

West Campus
formation

es

320

WATAB

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Es

Qa

23

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340

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Riv

350

Mayhew
Lake

34

360

34

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360

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340

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T. 37 N.

Bailey

ek

CORRELATION OF MAP UNITS

4545' N.

MILLE LACS COUNTY

ek

Cre

2010

T. 38 N.

36

Qco

Cree

Cre

er

Suck

340

er
Riv

310

Universal Transverse Mercator Projection, grid zone 15


1983 North American Datum

Qf

Qa

35

340

B'
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360

33
0

Qwl

Elevation contours were derived from the U.S. Geological


Survey 30-meter Digital Elevation Model (DEM) by the
Minnesota Geological Survey.

36

Qcs

350

36

360

360

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34

er

Qcs

31

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Elk

370

31

Riv

++

Rum

+ +++

er

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350

Lake

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350

35
0

31

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Co
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310

ip
iss
iss

9415' W.

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Ql

Rock

Qa

36

Qe

By
Gary N. Meyer

360

is
St. Franc

Little

380

370

25

35
Qp 0

Qf

GRANITE
Qcs LEDGE

Qcd
Qct

Qcs

31

Digital base modified from the Minnesota Department of


Transportation BaseMap data; digital base annotation by
the Minnesota Geological Survey.

Qct

370

350

Qwl

Qci
390

Mayhe

Qe

Qp

ALBERTA

380
380

SURFICIAL GEOLOGY

A'

36
0

370

GRAHAM

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Rice
4545' N.

0
38

370

350

NS
AR
STE NTY
U
CO

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le
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W
es

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LANGOLA

370

39

31

31

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0
33

Qa

T. 38 N.

h
nc

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38

380

Qcd

MORRISON COUNTY

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390

390

360

Creek

340

R. 28 W.

390

390

Bra

UN
TY

Bu
Qa

10

320
Cre
ek

R. 29 W.

370

CO

Hill

r
nke

Ro
ck

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Cre

390

ek

Little

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370

350

0
34
Qci

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Pla
tte

O
RR
IS

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330

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340

94 W.

R. 30 W.

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38
0

R. 31 W.
Qp

Cre
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9415' W.

R. 32 W.

Qp

COUNTY ATLAS SERIES


ATLAS C-23, PART A
Plate 3Surficial Geology

THE BENTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS AND


THE MINNESOTA ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST FUND
AS RECOMMENDED BY THE LEGISLATIVE-CITIZEN COMMISSION ON MINNESOTA RESOURCES

MINNESOTA GEOLOGICAL SURVEY


Harvey Thorleifson, Director

The surficial geology of Benton County, like most of Minnesota, is dominated


by unconsolidated sediments laid down by glacial ice and meltwater towards the
end of the "Ice Age," during the Wisconsin Episode (Johnson and others, 1997).
These sediments bury eroded remnants left by multiple earlier glacial advances
that once covered the county (Plate 4, Quaternary Stratigraphy). During each of
these advances, glacial ice from the Laurentide ice sheet to the north entered the
county from different directions, reflected in the diverse deposits left behind. The
provenance of an ice advance (Fig. 3, Table 1) is the unique area of bedrock to the
north that the ice passed over and incorporated, and then deposited to the south.
At the onset of the most recent glaciation, the Michigan Subepisode of the
Wisconsin Episode, ice carrying debris of Rainy and Superior provenance covered
the county (Fig. 3; Meyer and Knaeble, 1996). Following the northwestward retreat
of the Wadena lobe (the ice carrying Rainy provenance debris), the Superior lobe
advanced during the Emerald phase (Johnson, 2000) to cover the entire county.
Following the Emerald phase, the Superior lobe melted back out of the county,
and then readvanced during the St. Croix phase (Wright, 1972) to once again
completely cover the county. Its termination to the west and south was marked
by the prominent line of hills called the St. Croix moraine (Meyer and Knaeble,
1996; Knaeble and Meyer, 2007). Early during its recession from the St. Croix
moraine, the Superior lobe paused briefly at the St. Stephen ice margin (Meyer
and Knaeble, 1996) at the southwest corner of Benton County (Fig. 4), but then
apparently retreated rapidly across most of the county, perhaps slowing again in
the northeastern portion (Fig. 5), as reflected by various ice-contact land forms.
The Pierz drumlin field, formed beneath the Superior lobe and extending across
most of the county (Wright, 1972; Mooers, 1990), was exposed at this time. As
the Superior lobe pulled back from the St. Croix moraine, its meltwater became
ponded in low terrain north of the Twin Cities, forming glacial Lake Lind (Johnson
and others, 1999). The lake may have extended up the Mississippi River valley to
western Benton County (Meyer, 1998).
The last glacial advance into the county, the Grantsburg sublobe, was an offshoot
of the Des Moines lobe (Fig. 3), a tongue of ice that flowed down the Minnesota
River valley and then south to Des Moines, Iowa. The northeast flank of the Des
Moines lobe overrode the St. Croix moraine and continued northeast as far as
Grantsburg, Wisconsin. The Grantsburg sublobe blocked south-flowing streams
in the Mississippi River valley and other valleys to the east, forming glacial Lake
Grantsburg (Fig. 6; Cooper, 1935; Johnson and Hemstad, 1998). Meltwater streams
from the west and north began to fill the lake with coarse-grained sediment, and
finer-grained sediment accumulated in the deeper basins within the lake. The Duelm
channel (Meyer and Hobbs, 1993) was cut apparently when glacial Lake Grantsburg's
level had dropped substantially, isolating water bodies to the west (Fig. 7). As the
Grantsburg sublobe retreated, glacial Lake Grantsburg deposits were exposed or
buried by fluvial sediment as the lake level lowered, and then the lake completely
drained down the St. Croix River valley. A large outwash plain formed south of
Benton County (Cooper, 1935; Meyer and Knaeble, 1996; Meyer, 1998).
The Des Moines lobe and Grantsburg sublobe eventually retreated beyond the
St. Croix moraine, and the Mississippi River, still greatly swollen by meltwater,
became restricted in a narrow channel from Sartell to St. Cloud as it began to cut
through hard glacial till of the Cromwell Formation. The river, probably running
in multiple channels, continued to meander widely to the north and south of this
narrow channel, where it was down-cutting softer sand and silt. Eventually the
river became restricted to its present channel, leaving a broad terrace north of
Sartell and south of St. Cloud (unit Qwr; Meyer and others, 2001).

Qwh

Qnl

Qns

Qno

Qnd

Qnw

HUDSON EPISODE EVENTS


While the channels of the Mississippi River and its tributaries were being
established, organic debris (unit Qp) began to accumulate in ice-block melt-out
depressions, drumlin swales, and abandoned drainageways across the county. Little
Rock Lake formed at this time, and as the Mississippi River continued to downcut its channel, the lake level dropped, exposing nearshore sediments (unit Ql). A
study of sediments cored from Lake Ann in bordering Sherburne County (Keen and
Shane, 1990) indicated that eolian sand dunes in western Benton County (unit Qe)
may not have formed until an extended dry period, beginning about 8,000 years
ago (based on radiocarbon dating). However, evidence elsewhere in Minnesota
implies some eolian activity began earlier (Marlow and others, 2005), possibly
as early as the retreat of the Superior lobe from the county, when vegetation was
apparently sparse and sand was at the surface over much of the area.

Qco

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Robert Kozel and Gerald Hovde of the Benton County Highway Department
arranged permission for drilling in county road right-of-ways and gave access to
county bridge boring records. Thanks are extended to Gary Johnson-Cheeseman,
Gordon Jurek, Ronald Larson, Michael Schneider, and Allan Wollak, landowners
who allowed rotary-sonic drilling on their property, and to all gravel pit operators
and landowners who gave permission to examine exposures on their property.

Qcf

DESCRIPTION OF MAP UNITS

Qci

QUATERNARY
Qe
Qf

Ql

Qa

Qp

Eolian sandVery fine- to medium-grained sand; more than 3 feet (1


meter) thick; windblown into low-lying dunes.
Alluvial fan depositSlopewash sediment consisting of loamy
fine-grained sand to gravelly sand. Contains minor amounts of
disseminated organic debris. Deposited at the base of steep slopes
and at the mouths of deep gullies.
Lacustrine depositBeach and nearshore sediment. Consists of sand
to silty, very fine-grained sand with common shells; organic-rich
layers in places. Unit is mapped only along Little Rock Lake; other
deposits along the edges of lakes and marshes are too narrow to be
shown.
Floodplain alluviumSediment of modern rivers. Unit is typically
coarser-grained (sand and gravel) in the channels, and finer-grained
(fine-grained sand and silt) on floodplains. Generally coarsens
with depth. Wider areas are typically topped by and interbedded
with thin, organic-rich layers, and some depressions within the
floodplains have been filled with thick silty to clayey sediment.
Mississippi River alluvium consists of generally less than 6 feet (2
meters) of silt loam to loamy sand overlying sand, gravelly sand, or
cobbly gravel, with scattered wood and shell fragments. Contacts
with other map units are commonly at the base of scarps.
Peat and muckPartially decomposed plant matter deposited in marshes,
commonly formed in ice-block melt-out depressions and in former
meltwater channels. Generally mapped only where unit is greater
than 4 feet (1.3 meters) thick. Includes fine-grained organic matter
laid down in ponded water, and marl (calcareous clay) at depth in
places. Also includes narrow deposits of alluvium along streams,
narrow beach deposits, and small bodies of open water. Where
crossed by roads, the unit has been buried under artificial fill; the
organic sediment is commonly removed prior to filling in areas
where major structures are built.
West Campus formation (Meyer and Patterson, 1999)Fluvial sand
and gravelly sand of mixed provenance. Coarsens to cobbly
gravel in places. Unit was laid down during early, higher stages

Qct

Qcd

Qcs

of the Mississippi River, and preserved in terraces above the


modern floodplain. During these early stages the river served as
an outlet stream for melting glacial ice to the north. The West
Campus formation is mapped at two terrace levels upstream of
the confluence with the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling.
Langdon terraceThe surface is 10 to 30 feet (3 to 9 meters) above
the recent floodplain level (prior to damming of the Mississippi
River), ranging in elevation from about 1,000 feet (305 meters)
at Sauk Rapids to about 1,050 feet (320 meters) upstream near
the northwest corner of the county. Shells are present in places.
Most contacts with other map units are scarps.
Richfield terraceThe surface is 30 to 70 feet (9 to 21 meters) above
the recent floodplain level (prior to damming of the Mississippi
River), ranging in elevation from about 1,025 feet (312 meters) at
St. Cloud to about 1,080 feet (329 meters) at the northwest corner
of the county. Most contacts with other map units (except eolian
sand) are scarps; however, the contact with adjacent outwash is
commonly gradational. The original surface of the terrace has been
altered in places by wind action, and by ice-block melt-out.
Sand overlying reddish sandy tillSand and gravel at the Richfield
terrace level less than 10 feet (3 meters) thick over till of the
Cromwell Formation. Boulder lags are common at the contact.
New Ulm formation (Meyer and Patterson, 1999)Glacial, fluvial, and
lacustrine sediment of Riding Mountain provenance (Table 1)
deposited by ice and meltwater of the last glacial advance into
the county, that of the Grantsburg sublobe of the Des Moines lobe
(Fig. 3). Included in these map units are some low-lying areas
where New Ulm formation sediment may be overlain by 3 feet (1
meter) or more of sandy to clayey, organic-bearing colluvium, or
by thin peat.
Lake clay and siltLaminated to thick bedded clay to silt; generally
greater than 5 feet (1.5 meters) thick. Covered by patches of
silty, fine-grained sand. Thin beds of silty, fine-grained sand
to gravelly sand occur at boundaries and at or near the base in
places. The unit was deposited in deeper, quiet water of glacial
Lake Grantsburg.
Lake sandVery fine- to fine-grained sand and silty sand, with minor
interbeds of silt and medium-grained sand. The unit generally
coarsens upwards, but locally, coarse-grained, gravelly sand occurs
along boundaries and at or near the base. Many of the coarsergrained clasts are reworked from underlying and adjacent Cromwell
Formation deposits. Where patchy, the unit is commonly less than
10 feet (3 meters) thick. The unit was deposited in shallower,
more active water of glacial Lake Grantsburg. Deposits adjacent
to unit Qno were likely laid down, at least in part, in slackwater of
meltwater streams that deposited the outwash following drainage
of glacial Lake Grantsburg (Fig. 7). The upper few feet (1 meter)
have been reworked in places by wind.
OutwashSand, gravelly sand, and gravel. Deposited by meltwater
issuing from the ice margin. Includes clasts of Superior provenance
eroded from the Cromwell Formation. The upper few feet (1 meter)
have been reworked in places by wind. Commonly bounded by
scarps.
Twin Cities member (Meyer and Patterson, 1999)Complexly
intermixed yellowish-brown to gray and reddish-brown to reddishgray, sandy clay loam- to sandy loam-textured, unsorted sediment
(diamicton), pebbly, with cobbles and boulders. This mixture of
both Riding Mountain and Superior provenance sediment formed
by the erosion and incorporation of Cromwell Formation sediment
by the overriding ice of the Grantsburg sublobe. Small lenses
of stratified sediment are common in many areas. Cromwell
Formation deposits are commonly within 10 feet (3 meters) of the
surface, and locally are at or very near the surface. Commonly
water-washed and overlain in places by a few feet (1 meter) of
fluvial or eolian sand in the vicinity of units Qno and Qwr.
Outwash over Cromwell Formation depositsSand, gravelly
sand, and cobbly gravel less than 20 feet (6 meters) thick over
Cromwell Formation till, sand, or gravel. Includes areas where
Cromwell Formation deposits are at or near the surface.
Cromwell Formation (Wright and others, 1970)Glacial and fluvial
sediment of Superior provenance (Table 1), deposited by the
Superior lobe and its meltwater. Included in these map units are
some low-lying areas where Cromwell Formation sediment may be
overlain by 3 feet (1 meter) or more of sandy to clayey, organicbearing colluvium, or by thin peat. Where mapped within the
basin of glacial Lake Grantsburg, Cromwell Formation deposits
are commonly reworked at the top and are mantled in places
too patchy to map by generally less than 5 feet (1.5 meters) of
younger deposits. Beyond the bounds of glacial Lake Grantsburg,
the Cromwell Formation is commonly mantled by up to 3 feet (1
meter) of windblown silt (loess), especially in the northeast portion
of the county (Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2009).
OutwashSand, gravelly sand, and gravel. Cobbly in places,
especially near till and ice-contact deposits. Laid down by
meltwater issuing from the ice margin; generally bounded by
scarps. Where patchy it is commonly less than 10 feet (3 meters)
thick.
Outwash, sandyFine- to medium-grained sand, generally coarsening
downwards to sand to gravelly sand. The unit may have been
deposited, at least in part, in deltaic and lacustrine environments
(possibly the northwest end of glacial Lake Lind). The surface of
the deposits has been pitted both by ice-block melt-out and wind
erosion.
Ice-contact stratified depositsSand, gravelly sand, and cobbly
gravel; deposited by meltwater flowing at or behind the ice margin.
Sediment can be quite variable and is typically faulted and folded.
Commonly includes interbeds of, and in places is capped by, sandy
to silty diamicton (mudflow sediment) and silt (lake sediment).
Some deposits contain boulders. Most deposits were laid down
by meltwater in coalescing fans at the ice margin, but some were
deposited beneath or surrounded by ice. After melting of the ice,
these deposits generally stand as positive features.
Supraglacial tillChiefly sandy loam-textured, unsorted sediment
(diamicton), with pebbles, cobbles, and boulders; sandy silt to
cobbly gravel lenses are commonly present, particularly in the
vicinity of units Qci and Qcs . The unit is generally more than
10 feet (3 meters) thick over more dense and massive subglacial
till. Beyond the bounds of glacial Lake Grantsburg, the unit is
commonly water-washed and overlain in places by a few feet (1
meter) of gravelly sand in the vicinity of meltwater deposits (units
Qco, Qci, Qcs).
Subglacial tillChiefly sandy loam-textured, unsorted sediment
(diamicton), with pebbles, cobbles, and boulders; sand and gravel
lenses are uncommon in most places. Consists of dense, massive,
subglacial till buried by generally less than 10 feet (3 meters) of
supraglacial till. Commonly molded into elongate hills (drumlins)
by overriding glacial ice. Beyond the bounds of glacial Lake
Grantsburg, the unit is commonly overlain by a few feet (1 meter)
of fluvial or eolian sand in the vicinity of sand deposits (units Qco,
Qci, Qcs, Qe).
Till, sand and gravelSandy till capped by, and/or interbedded
with, sand and gravel. Locally, consists of patchy till over thick
deposits of sand and gravel. May include small bodies of thick
silt. Exhibits gradational contacts with units Qct and Qci. Glacial
and fluvial sediment are too intricately associated to distinguish
at map scale.

PALEOPROTEROZOIC AND ARCHEAN

Undifferentiated Paleoproterozoic and Archean rocksBedrock at or


near the land surface; consists of intrusive, gneissic, and schistose
rocks. For details, see Plate 2, Bedrock Geology.

Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the factual data on which this map
interpretation is based; however, the Minnesota Geological Survey does not warrant or guarantee that
there are no errors. Users may wish to verify critical information; sources include both the references listed
here and information on le at the ofces of the Minnesota Geological Survey in St. Paul. In addition, effort
has been made to ensure that the interpretation conforms to sound geologic and cartographic principles.
No claim is made that the interpretation shown is rigorously correct, however, and it should not be used to
guide engineering-scale decisions without site-specic verication.

Surcial maps are often consulted in the planning stages


for road building, on-site sewage treatment system design
and construction, drainage work, and excavations of all types.
Knowing the kind of material that will be encountered is
useful to these activities. The maps of the county geologic
atlas series are not intended for site specic or engineering
use. They should be augmented by data from the area of
interest.

Surcial maps are also a starting point for mapping


deposits that might be useful as aggregate for road building
and other construction purposes. The surcial map indicates
where these kinds of materials occur at the land surface
and further work to evaluate their thickness and quality is
expedited.
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


Quaternary Stratigraphy, and
Sand Distribution Models

becomes weaker, more mixed, and less direct as each glacier


incorporates material from the deposits of the glacier that
preceded it.

Stratigraphy is a geologic practice in which bodies of


earth materials are classied by their characteristics, and
their signicance in geologic history. The goal is to use the
characteristics of each unit to understand the event that
created it, where it ts in the sequence of events that created
the units around it, and to recognize units from different
locations that represent the same event, or the same period
of time. Geologic units record earth history, but due to
erosion (the destruction and removal of material) there are
often large gaps in time for which no geologic units remain.

Characteristics that help dene unique glacial tills include


color; the relative percentages of clay, silt, and sand in the
matrix; and the rock types represented in pebbles or coarse
sand grains. Often the differences are subtle enough that
a mathematical analysis and graphic plot of many textural
analyses is necessary to recognize and dene groups of
similar samples that represent depositional events.
The reason we strive to dene these units and their
sequence is to understand the earth history they represent,
and to create a common framework and set of names that
earth scientists can use to communicate. The units also make
it possible to infer some common properties of each unit
everywhere that it is encountered. For example, till deposits
of the Des Moines Lobe are known to impede water ow, to
impart relatively high sulfate content to water that has spent
time in contact with them, and to be dense and sticky when
excavating. Wherever these deposits are seen on a geologic
map you can expect these characteristics.

Quaternary is a formal geologic time period thought to


cover the last two or three million years. In Minnesota this
period of time includes multiple advances (and retreats) of
continental-scale glaciers. The atlas products included on
the Quaternary stratigraphy plate attempt to dene geologic
units at the land surface and in the subsurface that represent
distinct events in this glacial history, and to combine them to
an account of earth history in Minnesota for this time period.
Glacial till, also called diamicton, is a mixture of clay, silt,
sand, and larger materials deposited directly by glacial ice.
These materials are incorporated into the ice as it moves over
bedrock or the deposits of previous glaciations. Therefore,
the path of the glacier is reected in the materials it deposits.
Those materials were eroded from the substrate as the glacier
advanced. If we know where those materials came from
we can discern the path of the glacier. For example, an ice
lobe that advanced into Minnesota from the northeast will
likely contain fragments of the rock types commonly seen
today along the North Shore of Lake Superior including
agates. With each subsequent glaciation the evidence

Finally, there is a focused effort to map all geologic units


that may be aquifers. Water management is one of the
most important uses of the geologic atlases, and if we want
to protect and make wise use of our aquifers we need to
understand where they are, and how they are connected to
the land surface, to surface water features, to each other, and
to wells. For about two-thirds of Minnesota, glacial aquifers
are the predominant source of ground water. Aquifers at
the land surface often host lakes or rivers, and these aquifers
may be partially exposed (occurring at the land surface)
and partially buried (covered by younger, non-aquifer

Figure 19. This partial cross-section is a geologists interpretation of the distribution of materials in the glacial sediment of Benton
county. The wells used to guide the interpretation are shown. Note that there are areas where sufficient data are not available and the
material is called Quaternary undifferentiated.
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0

Figures 20 and 21. These are two of eight maps used to depict the distribution of sand at different stratigraphic intervals in Blue Earth
County. At the same geographic location there may be an aquifer at one stratigraphic interval, and not at the other. The color indicates
aerial distribution and depth from the land surface and the color contour lines indicate thickness of the sand bodies

sediments) in other places. Understanding and mapping these


arrangements makes it possible to understand connections
between wells, aquifers, and surface water features.

and provenance of the deposits of each ice lobe that


traversed the county. Provenance is a term that describes
the area or place from which the constituent materials of
deposits were derived. The atlases also provide maps of the
pathways of these lobes and their margins, and a model of
the elevation of the land surface that is useful in recognizing
the major drainageways, moraines, and other large landforms
of the surface of the county.

The Quaternary Stratigraphy products of an atlas include


geologic cross-sections. A cross-section is a drawing that
shows the vertical sequence of earth materials. The printed
version of the atlas usually contains three to ve crosssections drawn across the county. These illustrations are
based mostly on water well construction records (shown
on the illustration), with additional information from a
few scientic drillholes. The scientic holes produce core
samples that are described and analyzed for grain size
distribution. Occasionally samples of wood are found in
the core and used to establish an age of the sediment that
contained it. This is very helpful in establishing the sequence
of events and their deposits. The cross-sections are based on
the geologists interpretation of glacial history and the units
associated with these events (Figure 19).

Sand Distribution Models


The printed plate shows three to ve cross-sections, but
the geologists actually draw many more, usually spaced 1
kilometer (0.6 mile) apart. These sections are used to map
continuous surfaces that form the boundaries between
tills and between till and sand units. The contacts between
geologic units in the cross-sections are connected laterally
utilizing GIS methods. The surfaces that surround the sand
and gravel bodies are then displayed as a series of maps, each
describing the distribution of sand at a particular stratigraphic
boundary with depths and thickness. The work of the DNR
then conrms if these sands are aquifers, and creates maps
of the water levels, water composition, and sensitivity of the
aquifers to contamination.

The boundaries between till deposition events are the


places where sorted deposits (sand and gravel) are most
likely to be found. The boundaries mostly represent the land
surface as it existed before the next ice lobe arrived, and
that surface is where glacial meltwater would have deposited
sorted sediment.

The maps of the potential aquifers can be used to nd a


place where water is available, or to see what aquifers exist at
a particular place (Figures 20 and 21).

A unit called Quaternary undifferentiated is designated


in those places where we have no well records or scientic
drillholes to indicate the type of glacial material present.

A homeowner or drilling contractor might look at a specic


location and see if one or more aquifers exist there and how
deep and how thick they are. An industry looking to build a
facility might look at all the aquifers across the county and
then choose a place to build where the maps indicate a large
and productive aquifer. As with all geologic atlas maps it is

In addition to cross-sections, the atlases provide a


description of any units that are found only in the subsurface
(and therefore are not described on the surcial geology
map), and a diagram showing the relative age, distribution,
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


they contour. Usually the geologist creating the bedrock
topography works independently of the geologist mapping
the bedrock. Then when both maps are in draft form they are
compared and revisions made to increase correlation where
appropriate.

best to conrm the map ndings with on-site investigations.


Planners might look at the map and use the information
to protect the land area where a municipal well receives its
recharge. Hydrologists evaluating a permit request for a
high-capacity well might use the maps as part of an effort to
determine if the well will affect a surface water body (lake,
river, spring). This information is also useful in constructing
hydrologic models. These models are computer-based
numerical simulations of real geologic settings that are useful
in predicting the effects of pumping.

The contour interval is chosen to be appropriate to the


data density. Over much of Minnesota this is a 50-foot
interval, although in some areas with many wells it may be
possible to increase the level of detail and map at a 25- or
even 20-foot interval. The accuracy of the elevations from
the well records is about 5 feet because many of them are
read from topographic maps of the land surface with 10-foot
contours.

Bedrock Topography and Depth to Bedrock Maps


Topography means the shape of a surface, and thus
bedrock topography means the shape of the bedrock surface.
Glacial sediment covers the bedrock surface over most of
Minnesota, with the northeastern and southeastern parts
of the state being signicant exceptions. In southeastern
Minnesota bedrock can often be seen exposed at the
land surface, mostly in the valleys of modern rivers. In
northeastern Minnesota there are areas where the bedrock is
largely exposed, mostly in wilderness areas.

Depth to bedrock can be mapped in a similar manner by


plotting depths as recorded in well records. However, a better
map can be created by gridding the bedrock topography map
and subtracting the elevation of each grid cell from a grid of
land surface elevations. Gridding means dividing the map area
into cells and assigning an elevation to each cell. This method
is better at including the interpretive detail of the contours
created by a geologist. MGS generally uses a 30-meter cell
size. Usually the bedrock topography surface we draw is
much smoother than the land surface topography. This
smoothness is only an artifact of the relative lack of density
of data used to describe the shape of the surface. The land
surface topography is much more detailed and accurate than
the bedrock surface because much more data is available to
map it. When the values from the smoother bedrock surface
are subtracted from the values from the detailed land surface
the result is a grid that appears as detailed as the land surface.
However, these values cannot be more accurate than the
least-detailed of the two surfaces used to create it, and this
must be understood by users.

The shape of the bedrock surface, and its elevation, are


mapped mostly with data from the records of wells and
scientic and exploration drill holes. If the elevation of
the land surface is known, and the depth at which bedrock
was encountered is recorded, an elevation of the bedrock
surface can be calculated at that place. Deep wells that dont
hit bedrock also provide signicant data because they are
evidence that the bedrock surface is somewhat lower than
the elevation of the bottom of the well. If data are closelyspaced it is possible to draw elevation contours that will
reveal the highs and lows of the bedrock surface and possibly
changes in relief related to changes in bedrock type. Some
rock types are more resistant to erosion than others and
therefore stand higher on the bedrock surface. With enough
data it may be possible to recognize channels associated with
drainage systems developed on the bedrock surface prior to
burial. Geophysical data is used to augment the well data,
especially in areas where wells are not common.
Geologists at MGS draw the contours representing the
elevation the bedrock surface manually rather than using
automated, computer-driven routines. The ability of the
geologist to incorporate knowledge of the bedrock types
and the history of the terrain is deemed worthy of the
extra investment of time. We generally contour the data as
though an integrated drainage pattern existed, even though
glacial erosion may create closed basins in some places. The
geologist usually uses GIS software to display and print the
available data. They may draw contours on the computer
monitor, or on a paper plot to be transferred later. Paper plots
have the advantage of being larger than a computer screen
and therefore able to show a larger area. The geologists
frequently access online databases to read the well record
or otherwise increase their understanding of data points as
18

In the southeastern third of Minnesota where sedimentary


rocks occur the bedrock topography shows an integrated
drainage pattern with relatively deep and narrow channels
similar to those of the present day Mississippi River valley
from St. Paul to Winona, or the present day St. Croix River
valley from Osceola to Prescott. There are many valleys of
similar size that are completely lled with glacial sediment,
and therefore undetectable from the land surface. These are
easily seen in the bedrock topography maps of that area.
Over the remainder of Minnesota, the bedrock surface
character reects the more resistant nature of igneous and
metamorphic rocks, sometimes overlain by a thin cover of
sedimentary rocks, and sometimes deeply weathered. The
deep weathering was caused by tropical conditions about
100 million years ago, and perhaps by other episodes of
similar conditions prior to that time. The heat, moisture, and
acidic soil water related to rotting vegetation broke down
the feldspars and other minerals common to these rocks
and replaced them with clay minerals. Subsequent erosion
resulted in the relatively smooth bedrock topography typical

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


aquifers. In these places there is no signicant ground water,
and alternative sources (rain, impoundments, surface water
bodies, pipeline systems) must be used.
Where sedimentary bedrock occurs, there may be a
succession of strata, some of which are aquifers, and some
of which are not. In these places there may be several
aquifers at different depths to choose from and some may
supply water with signicantly different composition. They
may be overlain by Quaternary aquifers as well.
Depth to bedrock can be an important consideration when
mining of bedrock is considered. The depth to bedrock
represents overburden, or material that must be removed
to access the desired bedrock. For example, the Jordan
Sandstone formation contains sand grains with the right
properties for use in enhancing oil and gas recovery. The
Jordan exists over large parts of southeastern Minnesota.
However, it is only a realistic target for mining where depth
to bedrock is relatively small, perhaps less than 25 feet. With
a geographic information system and the les from county
geologic atlas maps it is easy to intersect the bedrock geology
map with the depth to bedrock map to nd places where the
Jordan is accessible. The same situation exists with mining of
dimension stone.

Figure 22. The distribution of bedrock outcrops in Minnesota.


Many are too small to be seen at this scale. The major areas of
outcrop are the Arrowhead region including the North Shore,
Carlton, Pine, Morrison, Stearns, Pipestone, Rock, Cottonwood
counties, the valleys of the Minnesota, Mississippi, and St. Croix
Rivers, and many smaller valleys and bluffs in southeastern
Minnesota.

Bedrock Geology Maps


In Minnesota, bedrock formations are at least 100 million
years old, and some are more than 3 billion years old.
Bedrock is generally of interest for its potential to host
minerals or water. However, it can also affect how we build
roads and houses, and some bedrock is useful as a building
material.

of western Minnesota where the weathering residuum is still


present in many areas.

The bedrock map is based on descriptions of exposures of


the rock (outcrops), descriptions from water well construction
records and scientic and engineering borings, drill cuttings,
core samples, and geophysical data. Geophysical methods are
discussed in the database section of this document. Gravity
and magnetic methods are used in mapping igneous and
metamorphic rocks, and borehole geophysical methods are
commonly used in mapping sedimentary bedrock (Figure 23
and Figure 24).

Depth to bedrock can also be thought of, and called, glacial


sediment thickness. Where the bedrock occurs at the land
surface (outcrop, Figure 22) the depth to bedrock is zero, and
no glacial sediment occurs. Where the depth to bedrock is
200 feet there is 200 feet of glacial sediment. When mapping
the character of the glacial sediment for the Quaternary
stratigraphy products, there are commonly places where one
or two data points tell us that the bedrock surface is deep and
the glacial sediment is thick, but we dont have sufcient data
to know the character of that deep glacial sediment. Wells
are drilled to access water, and if sufcient water is found at
shallow depths there is no need to drill deeper. In those areas
we may know that there is thick glacial sediment, but we are
unable to describe or map its character.

The bedrock geology map in a county geologic atlas tells


us what kind of bedrock is rst encountered at, or beneath,
the land surface. Over most of Minnesota glacial sediment
covers the bedrock. Bedrock is often exposed in southeastern
Minnesota, in northeastern Minnesota, and in a few spots in
central Minnesota and southwestern Minnesota.

Where the bedrock is not an aquifer, typical of igneous


and metamorphic rocks, the bedrock surface represents the
bottom of our hydrologic system. Water does not penetrate
this surface, and no water will be found in appreciable
quantities within these rocks. There are places in Minnesota
(St. Cloud, the Arrowhead region, others) where igneous
and metamorphic rocks are at the land surface, and are not

In those places where igneous and metamorphic rock


occurs the map tells us what type of rock occurs at the
bedrock surface, and not much can be said about how thick
that rock unit is, or what might be beneath it. The processes
that create these rocks dont typically create a predictable
vertical sequence of rock types.
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0

Figure 23. Variations in the intensity of the earths magnetic field


in Todd County. The magnetic data was obtained from an airborne
instrument and guides mapping of rocks that are not visible at the
land surface.

However, in those places where sedimentary rocks exist,


there often is a vertical sequence of rock types that is
consistent laterally for tens or even hundreds of miles. If
we know the sequence from drillholes or outcrops, we can
predict what lies beneath the rst bedrock represented on the
map. The bedrock sequence is typically eroded by ancient or
modern rivers where we can see parts of the vertical sequence
in the walls of the valleys. The thickness of each unit can
be consistent, or can change laterally in a consistent fashion
such that we can predict the elevation of horizontal contacts
between formations. Because these layers of sedimentary
rock often have unique abilities to host and transmit water,
the atlases typically map the elevation of contact surfaces
such that they can be used in predicting water availability and
in creating numerical simulations (models) for predicting the
effects of pumping. The sequence of sedimentary rocks is
usually illustrated as a column near the bedrock map with unit
names and characteristics.
Maps of the bedrock of Minnesota show many faults.
They were created at various times in the long 3 billion
year history recorded in Minnesota bedrock and are not
20

Figure 24. The bedrock geologic map of Todd County showing


rock types in the same area as that shown by the magnetic
anomaly map, Figure 23.

an indicator of active seismicity. Minnesota continues


to experience earthquakes, but they are small and rarely
cause signicant damage (see Mooney, 1979). Faults in the
sedimentary bedrock can affect ground water ow patterns
where units that would typically impede ow are displaced
from their normal position by faulting.
The type and depth of bedrock can affect construction
of roads and buildings. Where igneous and metamorphic
rocks lie at or near the land surface they are relatively difcult
and expensive to excavate. Buildings are often constructed
on top of the rock, rather than incurring the expense of
excavating a basement. Similarly, road builders try to avoid
excavating rock, although a drive along the North Shore of
Lake Superior will illustrate this is not always possible. On the
positive side, bedrock is usually very stable and not vulnerable
to slumping, settling, or other movement.
The County Geologic Atlases usually assess the bedrock
geology and identify the potential for mineral occurrences.
This assessment is based on any resemblance between the
geology as mapped, and similar geologic settings elsewhere
that have hosted signicant mineral deposits. The assessment

2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


does not attempt to identify grade, tonnage, value, or other
economic factors.

the geologic history represented by the bedrock. Igneous


and metamorphic rocks underlie all of Minnesota, but are
overlain by sedimentary rocks, with the thickest and most
continuous sequences occurring in southeastern Minnesota
and northwestern Minnesota.

There are many types of rock in Minnesota, and many


variations in how they host and transmit ground water. We
can divide the bedrock of Minnesota into two groups, one
that includes igneous and metamorphic rocks and another
group containing sedimentary rocks [see Figure 7].

The sedimentary rocks (sandstone, shale, limestone,


dolomite) of Minnesota formed as an accumulation of
particles of rock or minerals eroded from pre-existing
rocks, or shells and other parts of plants and animals, or
accumulations of materials from chemical or biochemical
processes. These rocks can have primary porosity (spaces
between grains) or secondary porosity (fractures and
dissolution features). The cement that binds particles
together (such as in sandstone) can fully or partially ll the
pores and reduce the ability of the rock to transmit water.
The sandstones of Minnesota commonly transmit water
via primary or secondary porosity, or both. The limestone
and more common dolomite units transmit water mostly by
secondary porosity, utilizing horizontal and vertical fractures
that in many cases have been enlarged by dissolution of the
material around them. Shale is an example of a sedimentary
rock that, due to its lack of porosity, does not usually
transmit water readily. This rock type is also less likely to
host fractures, probably due to its ability to relieve stress by
bending rather than breaking. These major sedimentary rock
types are typically found in layers, and while they sometimes
have thicknesses of hundreds of feet, there are also many
places where thin layers of various rock types occur in close
vertical proximity. Formation names have often been assigned
on the basis of time boundaries rather than rock type, and
more than one rock type can be included in a formation.

The igneous and metamorphic rocks (granite, gabbro,


basalt, schist, slate, quartzite, gneiss, greenstone, diabase,
and others) form under high heat and pressure conditions
and the rocks are composed of interlocking mineral grains
with no pore space between them. Over time, fractures
form in these rocks, most commonly near the top of the
rock and less commonly at depth. Without pores, the rock
itself cannot host or transmit water. However, fractures that
connect to the land surface, or to overlying sand or other
water bearing materials, can host and transmit water. These
rocks (and the fractures within them) are the bottom of the
hydrologic system in Minnesota, and water will not be found
deeper than the zone of fractures within them. Wells drilled
into igneous and metamorphic rocks produce water from
such fractures. Where there are larger fractures and where
wells are strongly connected with recharge zones the wells
are most productive. Wells might also intersect a number
of smaller fractures, each contributing a small amount of
water, and collectively providing an adequate supply. Wells
that are relatively deep provide storage capacity, and this
can make a well that produces water slowly able to provide
larger amounts episodically. The well lls when not in use,
for example overnight, and then the water within is pumped
out during daytime use. Wells are drilled vertically, and
fractures are often also nearly vertical. This decreases the
chance of a well intersecting a fracture. For this reason two
wells drilled very near each other can have very different
productivity and very different depths. Hydraulic fracturing is
a technique developed in the petroleum industry to increase
the productivity of wells in fractured rock. It utilizes high
pressure to force open and clean the fractures, and then
introduces sand grains or manufactured beads that prop
open the fractures after the pressure is released. This has the
effect of increasing the capacity of each fracture to conduct
uids, and also creates and connects fractures to promote
ow. This technique has been adapted by the water well
industry to improve the performance of water wells nished
in non-porous, fractured rock. While some wells in igneous
and metamorphic rocks will hit large fracture networks and
produce lots of water, others will not, and some may be
effectively dry holes, unsuitable for even a domestic supply.

In areas of sedimentary rocks the products generally


include a geologic map with unit descriptions, a correlation
chart to show the relative age of the units, cross-sections
to show the vertical sequence of units, digital surfaces
(topographies) on some of the unit tops, and a geologic
column with ages, names, rock types, sedimentary structures,
and a composite gamma log, and a summary of geologic
history represented by those rocks.

Geologic Atlas Uses


The sections above have described some uses of individual
atlas components. Many uses require information from more
than one component.
Ground water modeling provides a numerical simulation of
water movement by assigning hydrologic properties to earth
materials and utilizing mathematical equations to predict
how water will move through those materials. The atlases
provide an account of the distribution of earth materials and
in many cases their hydrologic properties. The database of
well records provides information on where water is being
pumped, which affects the simulation. Ground water models
are typically calibrated against known water levels, and the

In areas of igneous and metamorphic rocks the atlas


products generally include a geologic map with unit
descriptions, a correlation chart to show the relative age of
the units, an aeromagnetic image, rock composition diagrams,
a regional geologic map for context, and a summary of
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2012 Geologic Atlas Users Guide, Ver. 1.0


water levels reported in Part B of the atlases provide this type
of information.

that wont be negatively impacted, and we need to isolate


contaminants, or activities with high potential to cause
contamination where water is not present or there is a higher
level of natural protection of the resource. The atlases tell us
where the largest and most productive aquifers are and how
they are (or arent) connected to surface water. Conversely, the
atlases can also direct us to those areas where aquifers dont
exist or are separated from the land surface by thick deposits
of material that impede the ow of water. These places are
more appropriate sites for activities that involve materials we
would like to isolate from the water resource.

The quality and quantity of water in an aquifer can be


monitored by measuring the water level on a regular schedule,
and analyzing the composition of the water to detect changes
over time. However, this information is of limited value if
we dont understand what is causing the changes we observe.
We need to know what land areas contribute water to that
aquifer, where the boundaries of the aquifer are located, and
how other wells and surface water features utilize water from
that same aquifer. All of this information is needed to make
effective use of monitoring data, and the maps and databases
of the atlases provide much of this information.

Summary
This tour of the basement of our earthly house has
described some of its most important systems and how they
must be maintained to support us. The geology of our state
controls where water can be stored, where it can move, and
how readily the quality and quantity of water can be affected
by our activities. Water is the most essential natural resource
and the County Geologic Atlases provide information that is
fundamental to effective management of that resource. They
compile and present factual observations that will be useful
forever, and interpretations that may be improved upon when
more information and technology are available.

Public water supply wells serve many people and therefore


the quality of water they produce is very important. The
information in the atlases is used to create plans that protect
those wells (called wellhead protection plans). These plans
use geologic and hydrologic information to identify where the
water supply to these wells is coming from, and how long it
takes to travel there. Those calculations are used to delineate
the land area that most immediately affects the quality of the
water produced by the well. Special land use regulations are
typically applied to that land area to protect the water supply.
To protect and make wise use of the water resource
we need to focus water use on those aquifers and places

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